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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. 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.

  • Creates authority for more robust recordkeeping, traceability practices, and fraud prevention procedures.

  • 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! 


Please do not hesitate to reach out to your Certification Specialist with questions or concerns about the new rule.

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