Update for organic exports to the USA: New USDA SOE final rule

Update for organic exports to the USA: New USDA SOE final rule

January 25, 2024
Strengthening Organic Enforcement Final Rule

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Organic Program (NOP) published an update to USDA organic regulations titled Strengthening Organic Enforcement Final Rule (SOE) on January 19th, 2023. This new rule incorporates (US) National Organic Standards Board recommendations, 2018 Farm Bill mandates and industry requests for the purpose of improving organic integrity across the supply chain by strengthening “oversight and enforcement of the production, handling and sale of organic products”.  Click this link for more information.

With changes to areas of farm to market traceability and export/import oversight authority, certified organic operators, or businesses that export to the United States, must adapt and comply to continue to engage with the US/Canadian international market. Organic operations, Certification Bodies (CBs) or certification agents, and other organic stakeholders have had one year to comply with the rule. The SOE Final Rule will be effectively implemented on March 19th, 2024. 

To see if you are affected by SOE, please read the full rule available here.

What does SOE mean for PACS Operators who export products to the USA?

Increased reporting of organic production data to PACS:

  • PACS Operators already have excellent record keeping practices! It may be required to submit records to PACS more frequently throughout the certification cycle to ensure data is accurate and current.
  • May require more robust record keeping traceability practices to ensure that traceability is maintained within an operation and back to the last certified operation.
  • Will require operators to implement a fraud prevention plan (FPP) for their operation.
  • Organic certification will be required for brokers, traders, storage/warehouse, and wholesalers including business that don't physically handle goods along the organic supply chain.
  • Enhanced PACS label review and potential updates to organic product labels for sales in the USA. Organic identification will be required on non-retail containers used to ship or store organic products.

Please check out the USDA SOE fact sheet for a quick summary.

Strengthening Organic Enforcement Final Rule highlights

 Image credit: USDA SOE fact sheet

What does SOE mean for Certification Bodies?

  • SOE requires certifying agents share information with each other to assist with compliance and enforcement
  • PACS will conduct risk-based, supply chain traceability audits
  • PACS will issue NOP Import Certificates (NOPIC), generated through the USDA's Organic Integrity Database (OID)
  • PACS will maintain up-to-date operation profiles in USDA's OID and issue standardized certificates for all organic products, generated from the new USDA's Organic Integrity Database (OID)
  • PACS and organic operators must train staff to meet all new SOE requirements
  • PACS will conduct (at a minimum) annual assessment of operator's record keeping and organic fraud prevention processes and procedures, such as conducting supply chain traceability audits. 

As this new rule affects all Canadian organic export operators and organic CBs, the PACS team is working with the CFIA and other certifiers to stay abreast of any new changes.  PACS operators with additional questions are encouraged to reach out to the PACS office.