Looking to help shape stronger organic enforcement standards, the Organic Trade Association has submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture on its top ten priorities to boost the integrity of the global organic market.
The input was given to help influence proposed rules expected to be issued in the spring of 2019 by the National Organic Program to bolster oversight and enforcement of organic regulations, according to a news release.
Called the rulemaking process “Strengthening Organic Enforcement,” the National Organic Program said the process will cover at least 10 major topic areas related to oversight and enforcement.
The Organic Trade Association said it identified priorities based on feedback from an OTA members task force formed earlier this year. The OTA said its comments will help craft a “fair and effective” final rule that will protect organic trade and the USDA Organic label.
“The USDA, organic certifiers, and organic businesses all have a shared role in protecting the integrity of the Organic seal, and our members have stepped up to be a part of the solution,” Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association, said in the release. “Today’s organic market is a global market, and fraud anywhere in the global chain impacts all of us. The integrity of organic is the lifeblood of the organic industry, and we are committed to preserving and strengthening the trust in organic held by consumers all over the world.”
The OTA’s top ten list of enforcement priorities were:
- Excluded Operations: Require certification of each producer, handler and handling operation in the organic supply chain with very limited exceptions;
- Organic Integrity Database: Require at least annual reporting to the Organic Integrity Database from accredited organic certifiers on aggregate organic production area by crop and location;
- Complaint & Alert System: Upgrade the process to prioritize complaints, improve the National Organic Program complaint system, and develop a public alert system;
- Organic Identification: Boost organic identification requirements to include in documentation with certified products and with all non-retail containers and packaging containing organic;
- Testing: Update the National Organic Program’s Guidance on Residue Testing and increase re-quired use of testing for imports and other high-risk products and/or regions;
- Grower Groups: Formally respond to the National Organic Standards Board Recommendations and conduct rulemaking to ensure consistent oversight and enforcement of group operations;
- Inspector and Certifier Oversight (including Satellite Offices): Develop more robust auditing of Accredited Certifying Agencies including annual audits of satellite offices domestically as well as in foreign countries;
- Equivalency and Recognition Arrangements: Prioritize oversight and data transparency in arrangements, improve communications with the trade partner, and do appropriate follow-up;
- Inspectors (Qualifications, Training and Field Evaluations): Improve qualifications and training of inspectors to detect fraud, and set minimum requirements for qualifications/training; and
- Import Certificates: Put in place a system that collects more data, including tracing the original product to its origin, and improve online access to electronic import certificate system.