Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE)
Organic supply chains have become increasingly complex, reducing transparency in the market and leading to documented cases of organic fraud. The SOE Rule amends the National Organic Standards to strengthen oversight and enforcement of the production, handling, and sale of organic agricultural products. This rule affects nearly all currently certified operations and now requires non-processing handlers, such as brokers, traders, importers and exporters of organic products, to become certified.
- Topics addressed in this rulemaking include:
- What operations must be certified
- Recordkeeping, product traceability, and fraud prevention
- National Organic Program Import Certificates
- Labeling of nonretail containers
- Standardized certificates of organic operation and data requirements
- Certification of producer group operations
- Foreign conformity assessment systems
Details and additional resources for the rule can be found on the NOP website.
All entities affected by this rule, including certified operations and certifying agents must comply with the provisions of this final rule by March 19, 2024.
We encourage all clients, and new operations seeking certification for the first time, to review the final rule and prepare to make necessary updates to your operation. New and updated regulations within the National Organic Standards.
SOE & Non-Processing Handlers
One of the most important changes in the new Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) rule is the requirement that many previously exempt handlers must now be certified organic. These include importers and exporters, certain brokers, and traders of organic products, known collectively now as “non-processing handlers.”
This means that operations conducting activities described in the definition of handle must be certified organic and must follow all applicable portions of the OFPA and the USDA organic regulations.
Non-Processing Handlers that will require organic certification often include:
- Sales brokers
- Commodity traders
- Ingredient sourcers
These “non-processing handlers” will be required to have an organic certificate in hand by March 19, 2024.
Who does NOT need to be certified
Limited exemptions for operations that handle organic agricultural products are described in §205.101(a)-(h). These exemptions include:
- Operations with less than $5000 gross income. §205.101(a)
- Retail establishments that do not process and sell directly to the consumer or that only process at the point of final sale to the consumer. §205.101(b) and (c)
- Operations that only handle products with less than 70% organic ingredients, or that only identify organic ingredients on the information panel. §205.101(d)
- Operations that only handle products that are in enclosed, sealed, tamper-evident packaging or containers prior to being received, and they remain in the same packages throughout handling. §205.101(e) and (f)
- Customs brokers that only conduct customs business and do not handle. §205.101(g)
- Operations that only arrange for the shipping, storing, transport, or movement of organic products and do not handle organic products. §205.101(h)
While these operations are not required to be certified, certification is often a better choice. Operations that are exempt in §205.101(a) and (c-f) must keep records required by §205.101(i) to verify the organic integrity of the supply chain. All exempt operations must comply with all applicable organic production and handling requirements as well as all organic labeling requirements
What should operations expect: Next steps
Use this “Who Needs to Certified” flow chart to determine if your operation, or anyone in your supply chain includes any non-processing handlers that must now be certified.
Contact MOSA if you need help identifying these operations. Non-Processing Handlers now requiring certification must be certified by March 19, 2024. We are happy to provide certification services in an efficient manner, and we have created a streamlined Organic System Plan (OSP) for non-processing handlers. Please encourage them to contact MOSA as soon as possible. They can create a MOSA account on the MyMOSA website and complete MOSA’s new Non-Processing Handler Organic System Plan.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) rule?
The SOE Rule amends the National Organic Standards to strengthen oversight and enforcement of the production, handling, and sale of organic agricultural products. This rule affects nearly all currently certified operations and now requires non-processing handlers, such as brokers, traders, importers and exporters of organic products, to become certified.
Why is the SOE being implemented?
The success of the organic foods movement has led to increasingly long and complex supply chains—the movement of organic products from growers, through processors and handlers, to distributors and retailers and, finally, consumers. There have been documented cases of fraud that jeopardize consumers' trust in organic claims. SOE strengthens oversight, focuses on fraud prevention, and requires that most handlers (non-processing handlers) become certified.
What is the timeline for implementing the SOE?
This rule is effective on March 20, 2023 with a full implementation date of March 19, 2024. This means that all entities affected by this rule, including certified operations and certifying agents, must comply with the provisions of this final rule by March 19, 2024.
What are the major aspects of SOE?
- Requires more entities in the organic supply chain to gain certification.
- Requires greater recordkeeping to show traceability.
- Requires labeling of nonretail containers used to ship or store agricultural products.
- Strengthens the National Organic Program's oversight of certification agencies.
What previously exempt operations will need certification under SOE?
- Commodity brokers
- Importers and exporters
- Most storage facilities
Can MOSA certify my non-processing handler operation?
MOSA has a 24-year history of providing efficient organic certification of processors and handlers. We've been accredited to the National Organic Standards since its implementation in 2002. We understand the SOE because we have been involved in its formation with the National Organic Program through meetings with certifiers the past 5 years. We have a streamlined application program for new handlers using our secure online software (MyMOSA) and a new simplified Non-Processing Handler Organic System Plan. We can offer certification services in our Areas of Service.
What is the process of organic certification and how long does it take?
Certification is a four-step process: Application>Initial Review> Inspection>Final Review. This Process takes about 3-6 months depending upon the complexity of your operation and your ability to provide the necessary documentation. Expedited Service may be possible for an additional fee. The initial certification fee for non-processing handlers is $1450, which includes a $400 inspection fee deposit. For more information about the process, please visit Organic Certification with MOSA.
I need to talk with someone about certification, how do I learn more?
Call MOSA toll-free at 1-844-637-2526. Customer service specialists are available to answer your questions. You can also email us at email@example.com.