USDA to strengthen organic rule enforcement
The deputy administrator of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program (NOP), Dr Jenny Tucker, is to use her address to the sixth annual Organic & Non-GMO Forum this week to focus on strengthening organic rule enforcement and building relationships with various USDA agencies to protect the integrity of the organic brand, reports Organic Produce Network.
“The publishing of the Strengthening Organic Enforcement Proposed Rule was a significant milestone and represented input from a full range of organic community members, including organic farmers and businesses, advocacy groups, and the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB),” Tucker said. “The final rule will foundationally change the game to protect organic businesses that are playing by the rules. Increased funding means we now have more staff and in-house expertise needed to investigate complaints and actively expand surveillance of higher risk activities.”
“We are also proud of the relationships we have built with the USDA Customs and Border Protection, USDA Office of the Inspector General, and other USDA agencies to expand our enforcement reach. Many hands are acting to protect the organic market!”
“Once finalized, the Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule will increase the program’s authority to oversee and enforce the organic standards. The revised regulations are expected to reduce the number of uncertified businesses in the organic supply chain; standardize organic certificates; require the use of import certificates for imported organic products; increase the minimum number of unannounced inspections; increase inspector qualifications; strengthen fraud prevention procedures; and increase data reporting requirements,” she said.
“The final rule will foundationally change the game to protect organic businesses that are playing by the rules. Increased funding means we now have more staff and in-house expertise needed to investigate complaints and actively expand surveillance of higher risk activities.”
Dr Tucker believes the biggest challenge the industry faces is balancing the need for consistency in enforcement with the reality of diverse site-specific conditions around the globe.
Soil-based farms and greenhouse operations in New England are going to be different from those in California. They are in different environments with different conditions and pressures. They can both be good for the environment, and they are both governed by the same rules under the Organic Foods Production Act,” she said. “Ensuring fair, consistent enforcement across diverse organic control systems will remain the largest challenge for the industry.”
She will also address the results from the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s (NASS) 2019 Organic Survey that was released last week and highlighted the continued growth of the organic market.
“As the number of organic farms and businesses grows, we continue to launch new tools and approaches to oversee and surveil the market – we will continue to go where organic grows. While the organic sector is still a small part of American agriculture, more farmers and consumers choosing the organic option year after year is a strong indicator that people value the choice. All of us in the organic community will continue to protect that choice!”