Jan 3, 2020
Almost 600 organic certifications suspended in FY 2019
The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) reports that organic certifications for nearly 600 farm operations were suspended during the 2019 fiscal year.
USDA heard 374 complaints and 291 Incoming questions or inquiries in the fiscal year that ended in September, according to its annual summary of enforcement activity. USDA completed 670 complaint reviews and investigations, up from 338 in FY 2018.
A total 595 suspensions of organic certification – up from 548 in FY 2018 – were initiated by AMS’ National Organic Program and certifying agencies. Fourteen organic certifications were revoked – down from 16 in FY 2018.
USDA levied $804,300 in civil penalties – way up from $30,750 in 2018, but less than half of what it was 5 years ago – $1.87 million in FY 2015.
USDA AMS wrote in a May 2019 report that the organic sector was growing and supply chains were becoming more complex, but that it remained committed to rigorous enforcement.
“USDA is committed to setting a level playing field for all certified organic producers and businesses,” according to the report. “Trust is the key to building and maintaining successful brands, organizations, and partnerships. For the organic industry, the USDA organic seal creates the foundation for that trust. Our top priority is protecting the value of the organic seal – a value that is directly related to our collective ability to effectively trace products across the supply chain, ensure the integrity of organic products, and rigorously enforce the standards worldwide to deter fraud.”