USDA Ushers Organic Regulation Changes for the First Time in Over 30 Years


Closing Gaps, Protecting Organic Producers and Improving Transparency and Traceability of Organic Products

As the “organic” section of many grocery stores continues to grow, with consumers wondering and hoping that their exchange of top dollar means safer food, USDA’s passage of a new rule aims to help deter and detect fraud and protect organic integrity throughout the supply chain.

Representing the biggest update to the organic regulations in more than 30 years, the “Strengthening Organic Enforcement” (SOE) final rule represents a significant increase in oversight and enforcement authority over organic production, handling and sales, and adds layers of protection around the agency’s organic seal, making it that much more coveted and meaningful.

The new rule standardizes training and operations requirements for organic businesses and personnel, calls for more on-site inspections, and strengthens enforcement of USDA’s current guidelines. The rule will also require certifications for organic imports, will require businesses to prove that all parts of their supply chain are organic, require additional and more frequent reporting of data on certified operations, and require stronger recordkeeping, traceability practices and fraud prevention procedures.

With the aim of protecting organic integrity and increasing farmer and consumer confidence in the USDA organic seal by bolstering organic control systems, the SOE seeks to improve traceability from farm to market, increase import oversight authority, and provide stronger enforcement of the organic regulations. Parties affected by the new rule include USDA-accredited certifying agents, organic inspectors, certified organic operations, operations concerning organic certification, businesses that import or trade organic products, and retailers that sell organic products.

The new rule is effective March 20, but organic operations, certifying agents, and other organic stakeholders will have 1 year from the effective date of the rule to comply with the changes.

But don’t wait until then. We recommend that businesses producing organic products begin preparing for the new changes to stay ahead of the curve, and to preserve their position in the organic section and with their consumer base. For further questions and guidance on organic labeling, the new rule and its requirements, please contact us at

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