22 February 2023

USDA publishes New Final Rule for National Organic Program in the USA

In January of 2023 the USDA published a new final rule. It is a revision of the National Organic Program's (NOP) regulatory. The main focus lies on the SOE (Strengthening Organic Enforcement). Following, you get an overview on the changes that have been made. Hence, if your company is part of NOP please read this article carefully. 

What is Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE)?

The amendments 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. USDA used public comments to refine this final rule and maximize benefit to the organic industry.

Who will be impacted?

Already certified operators:

All operators worldwide will be affected by SOE.

Uncertified operations such as sellers, traders, or brokers:

The new regulations require the certification of every operation handling or in possession of an organic product. If you are an operator and are interested in becoming certified, please email our local Kiwa contact point or DE.Info.BCS@kiwa.com indicating which country your operation is located in.

However, it is not fully clear yet on how SOE will rule on brand owners and transportation companies. This will hopefully be clarified in the near future.

Why does Kiwa support the NOP Final Rule?

SOE is the most fundamental revision of the rule since the establishment of the National Organic Program (NOP).

The final rule aims at mitigating fraud and close loopholes in the existing system. The purpose of all measures is to expose bad actors and keep them out of the system. Kiwa BCS wants to ensure that the efforts of those who follow the rules are valued for their integrity.

What are the main changes of SOE final rule published on January 19th, 2023?

In the following, a summary of main changes being implemented with SOE are listed. For more information, please visit Kiwa BCS’s website or the NOP’s website (link provided below).

1. Applicability and Exemptions

SOE requires anyone involved in selling, brokering or trading of an organic product to be certified.
However, it is not fully clear yet on how SOE will rule on brand owners and transportation companies. This will hopefully be clarified in the near future.

2. Imports to the United States

NOP import certificates are required for all imports to the US.

3. Supply Chain Traceability and Organic Fraud prevention

SOE requires operations to develop a risk assessment as well as a fraud prevention plan for their supply chains.
This includes labels and identifying all products in documents.
If you need assistance in developing a fraud prevention plan, consider the OTA Fraud Prevention initiative with MSU.
This is where your company will need to be proactive. You personally have to register for the program. Kiwa BCS can only support you if you have any questions.

More information on the initiative:
Annex_Fraud prevention Plan_ExecSummary-OTA-GOSCI-Guide.pdf
Annex_Fraud preventionPlan_ParticipantHandbook_OrganicFraudPreventionSolutions.pdf

SOE instructs certification bodies to share information about e.g. investigations and directs them to collaborate.

4. Labelling of nonretail containers

SOE adds additional labelling requirements for nonretail containers. These are amongst others:

  • statement identifying the product as organic
  • unique information linking the container to audit trail documentation
  • certifier identification
  • lot number
  • etc.

We suggest, you already start modifying your labels now. Talk to your local Kiwa-contact about what may need to change on your non-retail labels.

5. New requirements concerning the certification process and related areas
  • Certifiers are required to update the Organic Integrity Database (OID) regularly with more specific information
  • Standardized certificates generated from the OID.
  • More focus on traceability and mass balance audits
  • Certifiers will be required to perform risk-based audits. Certifiers must obtain audit documentation from operators to perform cross-checks and supply chain analysis.
  • SOE clarifies that NOP’s investigation and enforcement authorities extend to all operations that violate the act, including uncertified operations and any “responsibly connected” persons to a certified operation.
6. Others:
  •  Adds criteria on grower group certification and internal control systems (ICS)
  • These requirements can be found starting page 45 in the final rule under the headline “ Producer Group Operations”.
  • Adds requirements on personnel training and qualifications of certification body staff
  • One inspection per calendar year is obligatory.
  • Adds criteria on unannounced inspections
  • Other measures strengthening the organic integrity.

What is the timeline?

SOE is effective March 20th, 2023. There is a14-month implementation period that started since its publication on January 19th, 2023. Full implementation date is March 19th, 2024.

Where can I find general information about SOE and a link to the final rule?

You can find the link to the final rule as well as other supporting information under the link provided below, including a side-by-side comparison sheet of the former NOP rule and SOE as well as a SOE fact sheet.

In English: Strengthening Organic Enforcement | Agricultural Marketing Service (usda.gov)


Although we have informed your company about the most important changes of SOE with this info letter, you will not be able to bypass reading the legal text of the regulation in detail. Kiwa therefore strongly advises you to do just that.

Change can be challenging, but we’re here to help! For SOE-questions, please contact, depending on where your operation is located, either …

  • One of our local offices (includes operators located in Latin America, China, Turkey)
  • Your assigned Kiwa service team (includes operators located in Germany, Austria etc.)
  • Info.BCS@kiwa.com (Eastern Europe, South Africa, Asia, etc.)