The Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) rule is nothing short of a revolutionary change to the existing USDA organic regulations. And as organic farmers, suppliers, importers, and brands can all agree, any endeavor that safeguards the uncompromised status of organic products is a welcome one.
The SOE rule implements 2018 Farm Bill mandates, responds to industry requests for updates to the USDA organic regulations, and addresses National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommendations. So you can imagine how widespread the impact is on the organic supply chain. To stay compliant, every business that plays a role in the organic industry will have to reassess its approach to organic safeguarding, and none more so than those who sit in the middle of the supply chain.
In this post, we’ll take a focused deep dive into the impact the SOE will have on bulk wholesale ingredient importers.
What are the SOE rule certification requirements for ingredient wholesalers?
The SOE rule aims to ensure that all parties involved in the production, handling, and sale of organic products are certified and comply with the USDA organic regulations. The certification requirements aim to improve the transparency and traceability of organic products and make it easier to detect and prevent organic fraud.
As such, the certification requirements for ingredient wholesalers are changing to ensure a safer, more transparent transitional journey:
- The SOE mandates certification for organic handlers and brokers who were previously exempt from certification to reduce the number of uncertified entities in the organic supply chain.
- All businesses that buy, sell, trade, or import organic products will be required to hold organic certification from an independent certification body.
- Ingredient wholesalers must be certified organic to be listed on the NOP Import Certificate.
- Organic system plans must include verification practices for organic ingredients and all suppliers in the supply chain and describe how product traceability will be maintained.
- Ingredient wholesalers must maintain records that document the production, handling, and sale of organic products, including the origin of the products and the parties involved in the supply chain.
- The SOE rule allows limited exemptions for certification for low-risk businesses, including operations and retailers with less than $5000 in annual organic sales, handlers that only handle products sealed in tamper-evident packaging, and operations that handle only products that contain less than 70% organic ingredients.
- Businesses entirely exempt from the SOE rule’s certification requirements are operations that produce and handle products without the intention of labeling them as organic (even when it is organic).
These changes aim to improve the transparency and traceability of organic products and make it easier to detect and prevent organic fraud. Even though the SOE rule may create challenges during its initial implementation, it’s also creating a critical opportunity for companies in the food space because it levels the playing field of organic responsibility.
But don’t think that failure to comply will simply be brushed under the carpet. No, the penalty for SOE non-compliance could result in NOP enforcement action by the USDA, which includes penalties and potential litigation exposure.
What are the NOP Import Certificate requirements for imported organic products?
Under the Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) rule, the use of electronic NOP Import Certificates will be mandatory as of March 19, 2024. This is a transaction certificate that contains detailed information about the quantity and origin of organic products being imported into the United States.
Under the SOE regulation, both exporters and importers will have to be certified organic to be listed on the NOP Import Certificate as all businesses who buy, sell, trade, or import organic products will be required to hold organic certification from an independent certification body.
The implementation of the NOP Import Certificate will also involve close collaboration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), organic certifiers, organic importers, and exporters.
The objective of this widespread implementation of the NOP Import Certificate is to ensure a detailed traceability record and provide clear oversight of organic ingredients from farm to shelf.
A closer look at the recordkeeping and supply chain traceability requirements under the SOE rule
Obtaining organic certification and qualifying for NOP Import Certification is just the start, though. The next step is pure administration.
Ingredient wholesalers must maintain records that document the production, handling, and sale of all the organic products they handle. This includes the origin of the products and the parties involved in the supply chain. The records must be maintained for at least five years and be made available to the USDA upon request.
Along with that detailed supply chain record, wholesalers must also include verification practices for organic ingredients and all suppliers in the supply chain in their organic system plans and describe how product traceability will be maintained. The organic system plan must describe how product traceability will be maintained as well as the procedures for identifying and reporting suspected fraud.
Wholesalers: The custodians of the bulk organic supply chain
Wholesalers have always played a pivotal role in the safeguarding of organic ingredients and the preservation of the organic supply chain. Now that custodial role is becoming better governed and more transparent.
If you think that sounds like a bumpy road ahead, you’re right. And now, more than ever before, choosing the right bulk suppliers and wholesale ingredient sources needs to be at the top of organic brands’ concerns.
But it doesn’t have to be a bumpy road – not when you’re working with Ingredient Brothers.
Ensuring the safety of organic supply chains has always been one of our top priorities. And with an established network of organic vendors and transporters on standby, we’ll garner in the new age with ease.
Get in touch with us today to set off on a global culinary adventure, where quality meets reliability in the face of international change. Don’t miss out on the chance to revolutionize your ingredient sourcing and discover new possibilities for your business.
And don’t forget to check our product list to explore the diverse range of high-quality ingredients we offer. We look forward to partnering with you and enhancing your culinary creations.