Cornucopia’s Take: The article by OFARM’s John Bobbe below was originally published in The Milkweed. Bobbe is a strong ally in stopping the flow of fraudulent organic imports into the U.S. He has recently retired from OFARM, but he assures us he will continue to work on these important issues.
2018 Farm Law Boosts Funds to Fight Organic Import Fraud
The Milkweed (Subscribe here)
by John Bobbe
Congratulations to John on his retirement!
In the 2018 farm legislation, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) along with Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), who is also an organic farmer himself, successfully got language of the Organic Farmer and Consumer Protection Act of 2018 inserted into the signed bill (S2927).
That law gives USDA more funding for organic programs, and also stipulates what USDA must do to insure organic integrity throughout the supply chain — especially for imports. Liberal use of the word “shall” leaves little to no discretion for USDA to interpret how the provisions are to be implemented. Implementation will require at least a year, if not more. The following are some of the specific provisions and language.
The new farm law provides additional funding to the NOP as follows: $15 million for fiscal year 2018, and increases funding through 2023 to $24 million. It also provides a one-time appropriation of $5 million for modernization of trade tracking and data collection systems.
The USDA must establish procedures, provide documentation sufficient to verify that an agricultural product imported for sale in the United States which shall include, at a minimum, information sufficient to indicate, with respect to the agricultural product—- “(i) the origin; “(ii) the destination; “(iii) the certifying agent issuing the national organic program certificate; “(iv) the harmonized code, if a harmonized tariff code exists for the agricultural product; “(v) the total weight; and “(vi) the organic standard to which the agricultural product is certified.”
The measure, now signed into law by President Donald Trump also states the following:
- The Secretary shall modernize international trade tracking and data collection systems of the national organic program established under this title.
- As part of the accreditation of certifying agents, the Secretary shall oversee any certifying agent operating in a foreign country.” This includes satellite offices.
- The Secretary shall promptly carry out expedited investigative procedures established to review the accreditation of a certifying agent operating in a foreign country if the accreditation of the certifying agent is revoked by a foreign government or the Secretary determines that there is a sudden and substantial increase in the rate and quantity of imports of an individual organically produced agricultural product from the foreign country, in which case the expedited investigative procedures shall be carried out with respect to each certifying agent of that agricultural product in that foreign country.”
- Implement the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) system of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, used by all other USDA agencies regarding monitoring imports.
- Implement the Phytosanitary Certificate Issuance and Tracking System of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
- The Secretary shall establish a new system or modify an existing data collection and organization system to collect and organize in a single system quantitative data on imports of each organically produced agricultural product accepted into the United States.
- USDA must implement training of U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel on organic imports.
*USDA must REPORT ON ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS TAKEN ON ORGANIC IMPORTS (emphasis by the author).
Organic producers of all kinds should be thankful for efforts by Senators Baldwin and Tester to try to restore integrity to organic programs.