The organic sector of American agriculture has seen unprecedented growth over the past decade. U.S. sales of organic products continue to grow, and global organic supply chains have become increasingly more complex. With this increased complexity, including an increase in organic imports entering the U.S., USDA is taking new steps to protect the organic brand.
As part of our continuous improvement of the USDA organic regulations, USDA published the Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) final rule on January 19, 2023, which will require the use of electronic NOP Import Certificates for all organic products imported into the U.S., improving the oversight and traceability of imported organic products. The use of the NOP Import Certificate will be mandatory as of March 19, 2024.
Current Status – Pilot Program
Implementing the NOP Import Certificate involves close collaboration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), organic certifiers, organic importers and exporters, and organic programs in other countries. In April 2020, the NOP and CBP announced the ability to electronically file the organic import certificate in CBP's import system, the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE). This electronic organic certificate was launched as an optional filing step.
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 can work with their Automated Broker Interface (ABI) software vendors to determine availability.
Customs brokers have been voluntarily submitting data, which has helped the NOP and CBP ensure the new certificate does not impede trade for valid organic products. The NOP is developing a new electronic NOP Import Certificate generation system and an alternative process to enter the Import Certificate in ACE to minimize data entry burden and data quality issues. We are working closely with CBP to provide updates on this project. We anticipate releasing the updated import certificate module in Fall 2023.
Implementing the Rule
Over the next year, the NOP will continue to work with our federal partners and industry stakeholders to refine the electronic import certificate process. The following points highlight some essential facts about how these requirements will be implemented.
- Import certificates will be generated by accredited certifiers in the NOP’s Organic Integrity Database (OID), using requests provided by exporters of organic product to the U.S. Certifiers will then provide key information, such as the certificate number, back to the exporter. The exporter will provide the information to the U.S. importer for entry into the CBP import system (usually by a Customs Broker).
- Import certificates may be issued for single or multiple shipments or a specific time frame, depending on the certifiers’ oversight systems.
- For countries with which we have a recognition or equivalency arrangement, the NOP will work with the other country's government to facilitate the inclusion of certifiers under other schemes in OID.
- Strengthening Organic Enforcement – the final rule includes new requirements related to the electronic organic import certificate.
- Organic Integrity Database – The USDA’s listing of certified organic operations around the world. Up-to-date information in this database will support the completion and validation of electronic organic import certificates.