Written by: Amie Alexander, JD/MPS Candidate, William H. Bowen School of Law
Bipartisan legislation was introduced to the House of Representatives on September 27 by John Faso (R – New York) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D – New Mexico) aimed at combating fraud in organic imports. The Organic Farmer and Consumer Protection Act (“the Act”) would increase funding for the USDA’s National Organic Requirement (NOP), as well as strengthen shipment tracking and record keeping standards. You can read the Act in its entirety here.
The market for Organic products has advanced more quickly than domestic organic production, leaving the industry to rely heavily on imports. Supporters say this legislation will protect domestic producers and consumers by providing more oversight of global organic trade to reduce the import of fraudulent products. The Act would increase the NOP’s annual budget from its current $9 million to $24 million by 2023. The Act would task the Secretary of Agriculture with modernizing trade and transaction certificates, calling for an additional $5 million of Commodity Credit Corporation funds to be made available in 2019’s fiscal year to carry out the modernization and maintain database and technology upgrades.
The Act also aims to combat fraud in organic imports by allowing sharing of confidential business information with investigators and providing the Secretary access to cross-border documentation systems data managed by other federal agencies. The Act would vest the Secretary with the authority to require additional documentation before granting certification of the NOP to imports. This legislation requires the USDA to issue regulations limiting the type of operations that are excluded from NOP certification. If passed, the Act would grant the USDA oversight over certifying agents operating in a foreign county and require annual authorization for agents intending export organic products to the United States. Further, the USDA would be tasked with issuing an annual report to Congress detailing the domestic and overseas investigations and compliance actions taken regarding the NOP.