National Organic Program (NOP): Strengthening Organic Enforcement Final Rule

NOP Organic Enforcement Final Rule

US exporters who already fulfil their organic requirements, seemingly only have one small addition at §205.307 Labeling of nonretail containers at (d) – See Page 76 / 3623.  But you will have to read the requirements for storage and transportation generally.

The storing and transport of organic products may have an exemption for intermediaries, such as warehouses and truckers.  But there will still be a recordkeeping requirement of three years.  And there are things that intermediaries are not allowed to do, for example, breaking the seal of the organic product’s retail packaging, working with bulk organic product, labelling or re-labelling, to name just a few.  If the intermediary does those things, they must be certified.  The way I interpret the rule is that you will now be concerned with the owner’s product code appearing on outer packaging, and ensuring the product code appears on transport / warehouse documents and in the management system.

Freight forwarders have an exemption, as do customs brokers, but both parties will have some new responsibilities and recordkeeping requirements. 

USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) who wrote the rule encourages all parties to be certified.  If you are not yet certified, and find that you should be, you can start with this webpage:  Becoming a Certified Operation | Agricultural Marketing Service (

NOP Import Certificates will be required for any commodity imported into the United States that is being manifested, sold, marketed, or labeled organic.

There is no de minimis for imports, but a very limited number of exemptions will be granted for, but not limited to, food donations, non-retails samples, and humanitarian efforts.

At the end of the day, a certified operator will need to tailer their recordkeeping and traceability standards to the certified auditor’s audit, which is summed up as follows:

A supply chain traceability audit
(SCT audit) is the process of identifying and tracking the movement, sale, custody, handling, and organic status of a product along a supply chain. The objective of a supply chain audit is to verify a product’s compliance with the organic regulations. SCT audits can be used to investigate evidence or suspicion of fraud, verify compliance of high-risk products, investigate patterns of activity, trace the source of products contaminated with prohibited substances, surveil high-risk supply chains, or for other compliance-related reasons.

Examples of audit trail documentation may include but are not limited to receipts, invoices, shipping or receiving manifests, shipping logs, bills of lading, and transaction certificates.

The use of a management system by all parties that allows for tracing of the product code or lot number of some sort will be very important.  All parties need to think about software.

From the webinar held on 2/21/23, we learned that the eCFR will be updated after March 20, 2023.  The Organic Integrity Database functionality is still being built, and will be operational by the implementation date of March 19, 2024.  On-site inspections will not be virtual, even if you only have an office.  On-site inspections can be unannounced as certifiers use a risk-based approach.

Below please find a process flow for an importation of organic product that I have cobbled together from various parts of the rule:

Exporter operation is entered into the Organic Integrity Database by the exporter’s Certified Agent.  Agent is accredited either by USDA or the foreign country that has an agreement with the US.

Exporter requests NOP Import Certificate from their Certifying Agent.

Certifying Agent verifies organic product and amount and enters into USDA’s Organic Integrity Database which generates the NOP Import Certificate.  The certificate can cover a transaction or a time frame, probably not to exceed one year.

Certifying Agent sends NOP Import Certificate (in any format) to exporter. 
Exporter sends NOP Import Certificate (in any format) to importer or broker.  The Certificate need not physically accompany the shipment. 

Exporter ensures all export documents clearly state that the product is organic, including commercial invoice, packing list, bill of lading, bill of sale.

Exporter verifies that product is not exposed to radiation, fumigation or other prohibited substance during movements across country borders.

Importer or their Customs broker enters NOP Import Certificate data into ACE, e.g., origin, destination, certifying agent who issued certificate, HTS if applicable, weight, and organic standard the product was certified to.  (Failed to include the 10-digit identifier for the exporter operation and the unique numerical identifier for the NOP Import Certificate.  Let’s see what the CATAIR changes will be.)

The HTS need not specify organic.

No info on May Proceed or time frame for release except that AMS wanted a 30-day period to approve shipments, but agreed to a 10-day period to align with the entry summary process.  AMS checks certifier’s info with broker’s and also checks that exporting operation is still certified.

Importer verifies product is not exposed to prohibited substances at any point in the movement across borders.

Importer must have an organic control system for the verification.  System will be reviewed by the importer’s certifying agent.

Exporter and importer must maintain records of NOP Import Certificates and make available for inspection by the NOP and certifying agents.

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