On Thursday, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced new regulations that will allow for better oversight and enforcement over foods labeled and sold as organic.
The Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) rule, which takes effect in March, mandates the USDA’s National Organic Program certification for all organic imports to plug loopholes that allowed non-organic products to infiltrate the supply chain.
Further, the updated SOE standardizes training and operations requirements for organic businesses, increases on-site inspections, and requires companies to prove all parts of their supply chain are organic.
Farmers, certifying agents, and other organic stakeholders will have one year to comply with the changes.
Sales of organic products in the US reached more than $63B between 2020 and 2021, while organic food sales — which comprise over 90% of organic sales — rose to $57.5B.
The announcement comes months after a Minnesota farmer was charged with felony wire fraud for making $46M by passing off chemically treated corn and soybeans as organically grown.
Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by CNN. The new regulation is a significant step toward protecting legitimate organic producers and consumers who pay a premium to buy organic products. It potentially enforces a system that will prevent non-organic products from slipping through the cracks and create a level playing field for organic farmers. It will also increase people's confidence when buying organic goods as well as improve the market and the farmer's bottom lines.
Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by Nerdwallet. While a step in the right direction, this new regulation doesn't go far enough as there are grave flaws within the USDA itself. Its conflicting and compromised system is what allows ill-intended producers to flood the market with fraudulent products. Moreover, its failure to close holes in its certifications, investigations, and penalties undermines authentic producers and tarnishes the agency’s organic seal.