Protocols for import fraud

Organic Farmer and Consumer Protection Act, Led by Senator Tammy Baldwin

PCC Community Markets joined other National Organic Coalition members in supporting a bill to strengthen protections against organic import fraud.

The Problem: Some organic imports from some countries (e.g. Russia, China, Turkey) have been found to be fraudulent, undermining consumer trust in organic and harming farmers who play by the rules

The Solution: Updates to import protocols that uphold the integrity of the USDA Organic seal and ensure fairness for U.S. farmers

This bill:

  • Works to verify the integrity of all organic products arriving at ports of entry in United States and prohibit the entry of products that do not meet National Organic Program standards for organic production.
  • Addresses the threat that fraudulent imported organic products pose to U.S. farmers and consumers.
  • Creates a level playing field for American farmers by ensuring that farmers abroad abide by robust organic production standards, just like domestic organic farmers.

 

Section by Section

Section 1 – Short Title

Section 2 – Exclusions from Certification

Requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to issue guidance clarifying the type of operations that are excluded from organic certification requirements.

Section 3 – Definitions

Section 4 – Documentation and Traceability Enhancement; Data Collection

  • Enhances traceability of organic imports by requiring that import shipments hold electronic documentation of organic certification. Currently, only shipments from certain countries are required to have documentation, and there is no requirement that the documentation be electronic.
  • Modernizes the international trade tracking systems of the National Organic Program to improve traceability of imports
  • Requires collection of basic data on organically produced products accepted into the United States, including volume and country of origin

Section 5 – Accreditation Program and Investigations

Authorizes the USDA to require annual accreditation for certifying agents operating abroad. Currently agents in foreign countries are required to be recertified every five years.

Section 6 – Investigations

Allows USDA to react to known fraud by establishing expedited investigation procedures to review a certifier’s accreditation if:

  • a country with similar organic standards revokes a certifier’s accreditation
  • there is a sudden and substantial increase in the rate and quantity of imports of a particular organic product from a single country

Section 7 – Data Organization and Access

  • Provides CBP and the USDA reciprocal access to each agency’s system for the purposes of verifying a shipment’s organic status. Currently gaps in information accessibility between agencies impede the enforcement of organic regulations.
  • Establishes a system for collecting data on organic imports and authorizes relevant agencies to access the system and its data. Currently there is limited data collected on organic imports, making it more difficult to identify potential fraud.

Section 8 – Organic Agricultural Product Imports Interagency Working Group

  • Establishes an interagency working group between USDA and CBP focused on enhancing interagency coordination to improve identification and documentation of organic imports, improve availability of data on organic imports, and address ongoing enforcement challenges
  • Requires the interagency working group to identify and report on barriers to interagency coordination
  • Requires the interagency working group to report on the identification of fraudulent organic products at ports of entry as well as enforcement actions taken in response

Section 9 – Authorization of Appropriations

  • Authorizes additional funding for the National Organic Program to accommodate the growth of the organic industry
  • Designates one-time funding for creating a system to be used in the modernization of trade tracking and data collection systems for imported organic products

Related reading

Support for Washington State Soil Health Initiative

PCC submitted a letter to the Washington State Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks Committee in support of the Soil Health Initiative.

Testimony to the National Organic Standards Board

Six PCC representatives testified before the NOSB on animal welfare, aquaculture or synthetic nutrient additives.