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News and Alerts

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Strengthening Organic Enforcement

The Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) Rule was issued by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) earlier this year on January 19, 2023 and effective on March 20, 2023. All operations impacted by the new rule must demonstrate full compliance by March 19, 2024.

What Does the New Rule Say?

The SOE Rule includes regulatory changes that impact organic farmers, producers, processors, brokers, traders, wholesalers, distributors, importers/exporters, brand name owners and certifying agents. Some of the most notable changes include:

  •  Mandates certification for organic handlers and brokers who were previously exempt from certification to reduce the number of uncertified entities in the organic supply chain.

  • If an operation is involved in the Organic supply chain and is not currently certified by an accredited certifying agent, certification may now be required per the SOE Rule. 

  • If you conduct business with uncertified suppliers such as brokers, traders, wholesalers, distributors, importers/exporters, brand name owners, please consider referring them to Organic Certifiers. Please send them the attached flyer with more information on how to get certified with OC. We can assist in determining if certification is required and provide them a quote & certification timeline. 

  • Clarifies the requirements for calculating the percentage of organic ingredients in multi-ingredient products.

  • Update to requirements for nonretail container labels to identify contents as organic and include information linking the container to audit trail documentation.

  • Clarifies the requirements for certifying agents to conduct periodic residue testing and unannounced inspections.

  • Changes to various Accreditation Requirements for Certifiers.

 See the final rule text here.

I am a certified operation. How does this impact me and my operation? 

The key takeaways from SOE and how they will change your organic certification experience:

  • This may impact your current business relationships as some operations that were not previously required to be certified may need to become certified under the new rule. 

  • Operations that buy, sell, trade, or facilitate the sale/trade of organic goods must be certified under SOE by March 19, 2024. This includes: 

  • Brokers, traders, distributors, and wholesalers who sell organic products in non-retail packaging or containers.

  • Brokers, traders, distributors, and wholesalers who sell retail organic products that are not in sealed, tamper-evident packaging or containers.

  • Importers of organic goods into the United States.

  • Exporters of organic goods exiting the United States.

  • Transport companies that combine, split, or unload unpackaged organic product.

  • Mass Balance and Traceability Audits, completed during your annual inspections, are expected to be more robust.

  • You may be expected to improve your recordkeeping to better accommodate supply chain traceability and preserve organic integrity of all products.

  • You may receive unannounced inspections or records requests because certifiers are required to assess and assign risk to operations based on the complexity and a variety of other factors.

  • Certifiers must inspect each of their certified operations once per calendar year.

  • Certifiers reporting of data to the Organic Integrity Database is going to increase, meaning that the data in the system is going to be more accurate and reliable.

  • Certification Staff & Inspectors are required to demonstrate sufficient expertise prior to completing certification work on your operation.

What do I, as a certified operation, need to do?

Review the SOE Final Rule and examine your current relationships to other operations to see if the new requirements of SOE will impact your business model and business relationships. If you have any questions or find that one of your suppliers needs to be certified, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your Certification Specialist or our Customer Success Department for further guidance.


How can I get help? 
As you can tell from the brief overview above, a lot of changes are happening to the organic industry. As a matter of fact, it’s the most change that the industry and the regulatory framework have seen since the start of the program in 2002! 

Origin of Livestock Final Rule Update

The Compliance date for the Origin of Livestock Rule is coming up quickly! This Final Rule became effective on June 6, 2022 and full compliance is required by April 5, 2023. A reminder of the following…


Purchase of dairy cattle

Operations that are currently certified organic for dairy livestock will no longer be able to purchase (or otherwise obtain) 1 year transitioned animals from other operations.  As of April 5, 2023 any dairy animal additions (purchases, etc.) to your operation must be animals that have been organic from the last third of gestation.

Current transitions

Any currently occurring 1-year animal transitions to organic production must be complete by the compliance date of April 5, 2023. After this date, Operations that are currently certified organic for dairy livestock will no longer be able to transition animals to organic production (through 1 year of organic management).


Variances for Purchase of Transition Animals

There are 3 very specific circumstances where a variance to the above could be granted to certified operations that are small businesses (as determined in 13 CFR 121).  A request must be made to Organic Certifiers prior to obtaining animals through the scenarios listed below:

  • The certified operation selling the transitioned animals is part of a bankruptcy proceeding or forced sale.

  • The certified operation has become insolvent, must liquidate animals and as a result has initiated a formal process to cease its operations.

  • The certified operation wishes to conduct an intergenerational transfer of transitioned animals to an immediate family member.


8/3/2021: National List Sunset Dates

1/11/2021: USDA-NOP Ends the US-India Organic Recognition Agreement

1/1/2021: US-UK Organic Equivalency Keeps Trade Opportunities Open

7/8/2020: U.S. FDA Policy: CBD Prohibited in Food and Supplements
6/9/2020 Policy Memo: California State Organic Program, Additional Requirements Granted
6/4/2020: US Streamlines Organic Trade with Taiwan

11/26/19 Instruction: Organic Certification of Industrial Hemp 

6/3/19 Notice: Certification of Organic Crop Container System

5/2/19 Notice: Organic Integrity Learning Center Launch

7/31/18 Policy Memo: Impact of Prohibited Grain Seed Regulations on Organic Imports

7/31/18 Policy Memo: Impact of Fumigation and Irradiation Requirements on Organic Imports 

10/25/17 Interim Instruction: Maintaining the Integrity of Organic Imports

8/10/17 Notice: Oversite of Organic Imports 

6/27/17  National List Sunset Dates

4/3/17 Policy Memorandum: Confinement of Poultry Flocks Due to Low or Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, or Other Infections Diseases  

12/5/16 Calculating the Percentage of Organic Ingredients in the Multi-Ingredient Products (Draft Guidance)

12/2/16 Guidance: Appendix of Prohibited Materials for Organic Crop Production

12/2/16 Guidance: Materials for Organic Crop Production Guidance Part 2

12/2/16 Guidance: Materials for Organic Crop Production Guidance Part 1

12/2/16 Guidance: Decision Tree for Classification of Agricultural and Non-Agricultural Materials for Organic Livestock Production or Handling

12/2/16 Guidance: Decision Tree for Classification of Materials as Synthetic or Non-Synthetic

12/2/16 Guidance: Classification of Materials

8/31/16 Treated Lumber (Draft Guidance)

8/30/16 Interim Instruction: Material Review

8/23/16 Instruction: Organic Certification of Industrial Hemp Production

8/22/16 National Organic Program: Notice to Stakeholders and Interested Parties – Archived NOP Documents (5016 Allowance of Green Waste)

8/2/16 Noncompliance and Adverse Actions Flow Chart

3/31/16 Instruction: Personnel Performance Evaluations

3/11/16 Procedure: National List Petition Guidelines

2/29/16 Instruction: USDA NRCS Conservation Activity Plan 138 for Organic System Plans and Requirements for Certifying Agent Technical Service Providers

1/15/16 Guidance: Substance Used in Post-Harvest Handling of Organic Products

1/15/16 Guidance: Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conversation

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