Background

The Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service is proposing to expand the National Organic Program’s oversight and enforcement of the production, handling, and sale of organic products. Comments on this proposed rule are due no later than Oct. 5.

Specific provisions of the proposed regulations include the following.

- reduces the types of uncertified entities in the organic supply chain that operate without USDA oversight, including importers, brokers, and traders

- expands the requirement for NOP import certificates, or equivalent data, to all organic products imported into the U.S.

- requires additional information on the labeling of non-retail containers used to ship or store organic products

- specifies the minimum number of unannounced inspections of certified operations that must be conducted annually and requires supply chain audits to be completed during on-site inspections

- requires certifying agents to issue standardized certificates of organic operation generated from the USDA’s organic integrity database to simplify the verification of valid organic certificates and import certificates

- clarifies that certified operations only need to submit changes to their organic system plan during annual updates and that certifying agents must conduct annual inspections of certified operations

- clarifies conditions for establishing, evaluating, and terminating equivalence determinations with foreign government organic programs based on an evaluation of their organic foreign conformity systems

- clarifies requirements to strengthen and streamline enforcement processes, specifically noting that the NOP may initiate enforcement action against any violator, including responsible parties

- clarifies the method of calculating the percentage of organic ingredients in a multi-ingredient product

- requires certified operations and certifying agents to develop improved recordkeeping, organic fraud prevention, and trace-back audit processes

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