(UPDATED COVERAGE, Nov. 15) Organizations that certify organic producers must conduct periodic residue tests each year on at least 5% of those farms beginning in 2013.
Additional costs — estimated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program to be about $500 per test — are supposed to be paid by the certifiers, not their clients. If certifiers pass along costs by increasing fees for all clients, the increase should be about $25 per client, according to a rule published Nov. 9 in the Federal Register.
The NOP imposed the 5% minimum because a 2010 audit by the Office of Inspector General revealed some certifiers never conducted residue testing, according to the Federal Register.
There was also confusion about whether certifiers are required to conduct periodic residue testing, according to the NOP’s comments.
“The (Office of the Inspector General) indicated that certifying agents noted that they considered residue testing to be required by the regulations only under certain circumstances,” NOP officials wrote.
California adopted residue analysis requirements in November 2010 under the State Organic Program (SOP), and state officials are pleased to see the NOP strengthen its rule.
“The SOP implemented regulations ... to facilitate the sale of organic products within California while maintaining sufficient regulatory control by means of spot inspections, investigations, and residue analysis,” said Rick Jensen, director of inspection services for the california Department of Food and Agriculture.
“The SOP looks forward to the implementation of the NOP’s periodic residue testing requirement ... to ensure that organic consumers purchase products that are in compliance with state and federal organic mandates.”
Daniels Organic growers are also applauding the new rule. Will Daniels, senior vice president of operations and organic integrity at Earthbound Farm, San Juan Batista, Calif., said increased testing will help the industry overall.
“At Earthbound Farm we believe in testing as a verification tool and the results should provide certifiers and those tested with useful information, in addition to bolstering organic integrity,” Daniels said. “Consumers want a strong organic seal and so do we.”
The Organic Foods Production Act requires certifiers to conduct periodic pre- and post-harvest residue testing, according to the notice, even if there is no apparent problem.