The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) today publishes a proposed new rule to strengthen protection against fraud in the organic supply chain.

“Organic agriculture is one of the fastest growing sectors in the food market,” said under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs Greg Ibach. “As the organic market has grown, organic supply chains have become more complex. Stronger market oversight is needed to protect farmers and consumers who choose the organic option.”

USDA says the revised regulations will:

  • Reduce the number of uncertified businesses in the organic supply chain.
  • Standardize organic certificates.
  • Require the use of import certificates for all imported organic products.
  • Increase the minimum number of unannounced inspections.
  • Increase inspector qualifications.
  • Strengthen fraud prevention procedures.
  • Increase data reporting requirements to make it easier to identify and focus enforcement resources on higher-risk locations, activities and commodities.
USDA infographic explaining what the new rule will do

The USDA’s Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) Proposed Rule, acknowledges the important contribution of “private initiatives in the organic sector to develop best practices for organic operations to detect and prevent organic fraud”, citing as “a good example” US trade body the Organic Trade Association’s Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions project.

“The Organic Trade Association applauds USDA’s and the National Organic Program’s commitment to the integrity of organic, and we thank them for their important endorsement of our Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions,” said OTA CEO and executive director Laura Batcha. 

“Protecting the integrity of organic requires the efforts of all organic stakeholders, both public and private. This historic rulemaking by USDA will do much to protect organic from fraud through tougher enforcement and oversight, as our program helps organic companies put into place on-the-ground systems to deter and prevent fraud.”

The association’s fraud prevention program is designed specifically to meet the unique needs of the organic supply chain and is based on buyer responsibility and supplier verification. Fifty-five organic businesses have enrolled in the Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions, and have been using the association’s Organic Fraud Prevention Guide to prepare for the training and help detect and deter fraud. A Participant Handbook developed for interested and enrolled companies provides an overview of the program, and the steps required to enroll and succeed.

Organic companies wanting to protect against fraud in the organic supply chain can sign up now for the Organic Trade Association’s Fraud Prevention Solutions, and be a part of this far-reaching effort to maintain integrity in organic.

The Organic Trade Association is working with its diverse member task force to shape its comments on the proposed rulemaking in advance of the Oct. 5 public comment deadline.