During a speech at the Global Ecological Products Exhibition (GOPEX), Jennifer Tucker announced that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) was going to modify the regulations of the National Organic Program. The goal of these new rules is to create greater responsibility and visibility; reduce exemptions for handling certifications; implement a requirement for all imports to be certified, and improve supervision of accreditation and certification.
The proposal, which is now being reviewed by the Administration and Budget Office, will apply particularly to non-certified handlers and importers, Tucker said.
A large part of the rule, she said, will allow fewer exemptions, which will increase the number of handling certifications. Currently, handlers who deal with packaged organic products do not need to be certified; something that will change, according to Tucker.
Congress has asked the USDA to close the legal vacuum that exists regarding uncertified handlers and to demand electronic certificates for all imports. "Customs and Border Protection is currently programming the organic import certificate in its automated business environment," said the USDA representative.
"There will now be a mechanism (in the Automated Export System) to identify the products, which must be accompanied by an import certificate once the final rule is published, as organic products," she added.
While the US Customs and Border Protection Office, CBP, will own the automated system that produces the certificates, Tucker said the USDA will have access to the import certificate data for decisions and actions on investigations and surveillance based on risks
The proposed regulation will also address unannounced inspections, inspector training, and the strengthening of labeling rules. The rule also seeks to standardize organic certificates and modify the requirements for the exchange of information by certifiers, she added.