SOE is effective March 20, 2023, and full implementation is March 19, 2024.
What is Strengthening Organic Enforcement?
Strengthening Organic Enforcement or “SOE” is regulation from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP).
SOE amends the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic regulations by strengthening oversight and enforcement of the production, handling, and sale of organic agricultural products. SOE protects integrity in the organic supply chain and builds 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 is impacted and how?
The regulation is a new version aimed at ensuring organic integrity, supporting the continued growth of the organic sector, and mitigating fraud in the organic market to ensure consumers continue to trust the organic label.
Everyone is impacted by the new SOE. From the consumers, to the certified organic operations, non-certified operations that were previously exempt, and also certification agencies.
If you are currently certified organic you may expect more clarity and accountability for safeguarding the integrity of the organic supply chain. Organic producers will be required to:
- Improve record-keeping and have records readily available for onsite traceability and mass balance events
- Deliver a fraud prevention plans explaining how your operation mitigates fraud and protects the organic integrity
- Provide additional information with updated Organic System Plans; including but not limited to:
- If formed as a group to market product, Producer Groups must comply with increased oversight of their Internal Control Systems
- Comply with nonretail labeling requirements to ensure auditability and traceability of nonretail organic products Utilize a new equation for the calculation of organic percentage
- Verify products sourced from foreign countries are accompanied by a NOP Import Certificates upon entering the United States
- Ensure key components of the organic supply chain that were previously exempt are seeking certification to avoid disruption in the organic supply chain
Uncertified entities in the supply chain:
Under SOE, a very important update to strengthen the organic supply chain requires previously exempt and other new entities to be certified organic. If your operation is part of the organic supply chain, please talk to OTCO about organic certification.
- Home Delivery
If you are currently offering the above services, you are required to become certified organic. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (541) 201-8042.
OTCO is currently waiving the $300 new client certification fee until March 24, 2024.
Those who transport and the end sale to the consumer remain Exempt or Excluded in the SOE.
The new SOE holds certifying agents accountable to prevent fraud. At OTCO, we are implementing the new SOE with a focus on safeguarding the organic supply chain by:
- Supporting operations with implementation of the new SOE regulations,
- Ensuring our human capital is calibrated with appropriate qualifications and skills for providing premier organic certification services,
- Increasing surveillance of complex supply chains to prevent risks to the organic integrity by performing additional inspections, sampling events, unannounced inspections, risk assessments and investigations.
- Improving our certification process with new policies for adverse actions, including mediations, standardized issuance of organic certificates and much more.
- Tightening our relationships with other certifiers to safeguard the traceability of the organic supply chain.
Unsure If You Need to Get Certified?
Use Our Certification Matrix.
If you have entities within your supply chain that are no longer exempt per the Strengthening Organic Enforcement regulations, you could be at risk of disruption to organic production and sales starting March 19, 2024.
SOE Webinars and Resources
Tilth is working on making changes throughout our processes. Over the next few months, operators can expect webinars and resources on SOE from OTCO. We will provide clarity, answer questions, and present an overview of changes coming to OTCO organic certification (video series):
- Uncertified entities and processing
- Certificates: NOP Import Certificate & Certificates of Organic Operation
- Traceability of supply chains
- Increased surveillance and updated Inspection requirements
- Strengthening Organic Enforcement: Assess Your Supply Chain
- Certification Matrix
- USDA AMS Strengthening Organic Enforcement Final Rule Primers
- Organic Trade Association Resources
- Organic Grower Summit Educational Intensive
- Strengthening Organic Enforcement Final Rule
- Regulation Side by Side
SOE implementation timeline
The above timeline details Oregon Tilth’s implementation of the USDA’s Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) regulation from the NOP (NOP). We’ve outlined five phases to this year-long implementation.