The organic sector of American agriculture has seen unprecedented growth over the last ten years. Sales of organic products in the U.S. continue to grow at a steady rate. With the increase in imports entering the U.S., the USDA continues to focus on maintaining the integrity of organic supply chains to strengthen farmer and consumer trust in the organic seal.
To address this growth, the National Organic Program (NOP) has launched a project to implement electronic organic import certificates. These certificates will increase the transparency and traceability of organic products by requiring import certificates for all organic imports.
Electronic organic import certificates are required by the 2018 Farm Bill and are closely connected with the Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule currently underway, which will modify the USDA organic regulations in many areas.
This project involves close collaboration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), organic certifiers, organic importers and exporters, and organic programs in other countries.
At the end of April 2020, the NOP and CBP announced the deployment of the electronic organic import certificate as a “message set” in CBP's primary import system, the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE). This organic certificate was launched as an optional filing step, for now.
U.S. organic importers who wish to request the NOP Import Certificate (pdf) from exporters to include in their import filings may do so at any time. Trade filers who want to begin using and piloting this new feature should work with their Automated Broker Interface (ABI) software vendors to determine availability.
Customs brokers who start voluntarily submitting data now will help NOP and CBP ensure the new certificate does not slow trade for valid organic products.
- Fact Sheet for those new to the organic trade on the USDA, NOP website describes the proposed new rules related to organic certification and imports (pdf)
- Fact Sheet: Overview of Electronic Organic Import Certificates Project outlines project goals, participants, and outcomes (pdf)
- Strengthening Organic Enforcement proposed rule includes new requirements related to the electronic organic import certificate.
- Organic Insider on the availability of the electronic organic import certificates.
- Organic Integrity Database - The USDA’s listing of certified organic operations around the world. Up-to-date information in this database will support electronic certificate completion and validation.