The USDA will implement Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) on March 19, 2024. The new updates will impact all segments of the organic industry.
The changes aim to protect integrity in the organic supply chain and build consumer and industry trust in the USDA organic label by strengthening organic control systems, improving farm to market traceability, and providing robust enforcement of the USDA organic regulations.
Who needs to be certified?
Anyone that produces or handles organic products.
Produce means: to grow or raise...
Handle means: To sell, process, or package agricultural products, including but not limited to trading, facilitating sale or trade on behalf of a seller or oneself, importing to the United States, exporting for sale in the United States, combining, aggregating, culling, conditioning, treating, packing, containerizing, repackaging, labeling, storing, receiving, or loading.
SOE adds more specific activities to "handle," including trade, facilitate sale (broker), import, and export. Even businesses that don't physically handle products may still need to be certified if they conduct one of these activities.
Who qualifies for an exemption under SOE?
USDA will provide very few exemptions for organic certification under SOE, and only operations conducting low-risk activities will be eligible to receive an exemption.
Operations eligible for exemptions include:
A chart that illustrates who is likely to be granted an exemption and who is unlikely to be granted an exemption is available HERE. Processors and handlers should still plan to consult an accredited certifier to confirm eligibility for an exemption.