The Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) rule is set to radically change the organic industry as of March 2024. But it’s a step that’s founded on a history of agricultural initiatives and legislative actions, the heart of which is the Farm Bill.
The Farm Bill is a cornerstone of U.S. agricultural and food policy, encompassing a wide range of programs aimed at supporting farmers, ensuring food security, and promoting conservation. This comprehensive piece of legislation is periodically updated to adapt to the evolving needs of the agricultural landscape. The most recent of which was the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, the act that led directly to the creation of the SOE rule.
In this blog post, we’ll delve into the historical evolution of Farm Bill initiatives. The Farm Bill’s place in the food industry today, and the most anticipated topics that may be covered by the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill.
A Brief History of Farm Bill Initiatives
To comprehend the significance of the present Farm Bill, we must journey through the previous iterations that shaped the Farm Bill into what it is today.
Origins and Goals of Farm Bills
The concept of the Farm Bill can be traced back to the 1930s during Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation. The initial goals were to ensure fair food prices for both farmers and consumers, maintain an adequate food supply, and protect the nation’s vital natural resources. These objectives were responses to the economic challenges and environmental crises of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.
Evolution of Farm Bills Over the Years
The Farm Bill has evolved over the years, with significant milestones including the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 (1990 Farm Bill). This legislation expanded the scope of the Farm Bill, incorporating provisions related to global climate change prevention and forestry, showcasing the adaptability and relevance of the bill to changing times.
The Significance of the 2018 Farm Bill
The 2018 Farm Bill, a bipartisan effort, authorized substantial funding of $428.3 billion for various USDA programs, highlighting its critical importance in supporting counties, farmers, and food-related initiatives. It emphasized nutrition programs, crop insurance, conservation, and commodities, addressing the contemporary challenges facing the agricultural sector.
The Farm Bill Process
The process of drafting and passing a new Farm Bill involves multiple phases, including reauthorization, hearings, and appropriations. This meticulous process occurs approximately every five years, allowing stakeholders to provide input and shape the bill’s contents. The ongoing development of the 2023 Farm Bill emphasizes the democratic and inclusive nature of this process.
Understanding the 2018 Farm Bill
To understand the need for legislation that protects the production and management of organic ingredients, you simply need to look at the size of the organic market. In 2013, organic food sales in the United States were set at around $31 billion. By 2022, that amount had nearly doubled to $61.7 billion.
So even though the Farm Bill has stood as a pivotal legislative milestone in the realm of American agriculture and food policy, it’s now more needed than ever to ensure the preservation of responsible food and business practices in an industry that is rapidly growing.
The 2018 Farm Bill was enacted to offer steadfast support and stability to farmers, ranchers, and forest managers. But this comprehensive legislation goes beyond its name, reaching into diverse domains crucial for a robust food supply. From suppliers to wholesalers to brands operating within the food industry.
In this section, we will delve into an overview of the 2018 Farm Bill, highlighting its primary objectives, major topics, and its notable impact on international ingredient trade. Understanding this vital piece of legislation is essential to grasp the intricate mechanisms that fortify the nation’s agricultural foundation.
Overview of the 2018 Farm Bill
The 2018 Farm Bill, officially known as the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, is a vital piece of legislation governing agricultural and food programs in the United States. Its core objectives are to provide stability and support to farmers, ranchers, and forest managers while enhancing farm support programs, crop insurance, disaster programs, and voluntary conservation efforts. This legislation plays a critical role in maintaining a reliable and stable food supply chain within the USA and also aims to safeguard bulk and wholesale international supply chains.
Major Topics Covered in the 2018 Farm Bill
The 2018 Farm Bill addresses several crucial topics, including the following items:
- Commodities and disaster management
- Trade policies
- Nutrition programs
- Rural development
- Research and extension
The question now is how does the Farm Bill affect the importing of bulk and wholesale organic ingredients?
Impact on Wholesale Importing and the Road to the SOE Rule
A pivotal aspect of the 2018 Farm Bill is its intended influence across the food industry, including wholesale importing into the United States. The trade title within this legislation holds provisions that significantly affect the dynamics of international ingredient trade. These provisions not only govern international food assistance and export market development programs but also play a crucial role in import processes.
The Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) final rule takes things a step further by implementing several provisions from the Farm Bill. The three provisions that the SOE rule implements are:
- Section 10004 – This requirement of the USDA to establish procedures to prevent and detect fraud in the organic supply chain, including the authorization of unannounced inspections of certified operations.
- Section 10014 – This section requires the USDA to establish a technology-enabled tracking system for organic products from farm to market, which is being supported by importers and exporters having to be certified and registered on the National Organic Program’s ORganic Database.
- Section 10104 – This section requires the USDA to establish a peer review process for certifying agents and to ensure that certifying agents are not certifying operations with which they have a conflict of interest.
These provisions were aimed at improving the integrity of the organic supply chain and strengthening the enforcement of organic regulations. The SOE rule delivers on that intention and levels the playing field of the organic food industry, making shared responsibility a central part of the entire supply chain,
Anticipating the 2023 Farm Bill
The 2023 Farm Bill is still under discussion and development in Congress but is expected to address a wide array of crucial topics related to agricultural and food policy in the United States.
Some of the key areas that may be addressed in the 2023 Farm Bill include:
- Nutrition programs like SNAP
- Research funding to enhance agricultural practices
- Conservation efforts to protect natural resources
- Rural development initiatives
- Trade policies
- Crop insurance
- Disaster assistance
- Animal welfare
- Energy and renewable energy programs
It’s clear to see why the 2023 Farm Bill is anticipated to be a comprehensive and impactful legislation that will shape both the agricultural and wholesale food industry going forward.
Where to From Here?
Each iteration of the Farm Bill is a crucial legislative instrument that has a profound impact on American agriculture, food security, and rural development. But more than that, it also supports the future of the bulk and wholesale ingredient importing industry, which has to ensure that the same standards are upheld by our international partners.
The 2018 Farm Bill has set the stage for addressing contemporary challenges, and we anticipate that the 2023 Farm Bill will continue to evolve, adapting to the needs of a dynamic agricultural landscape.
As sourcers and importers of ingredients from across the world, Ingredient Brothers is in a central position to preserve the organic status of your ingredients and the sustainability of international trade chains through the relationships we build with vendors and food brands. And we take that custodial role seriously, welcoming the SOE rule with open arms.