Sep 9, 2020
Pipeline Foods is first to finish enrollment in OTA’s Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions
Pipeline Food’s supply chain is complex and global. It stretches from the organic grains farmer in Minnesota to the organic soybean and corn producer in Argentina, and from the organic grain elevator in Canada to the organic oilseeds processor in India. Protecting the integrity of organic and preventing organic fraud in such a diverse and wide-ranging supply chain requires commitment, knowledge and lots of hard work.
The Organic Trade Association is pleased to recognize Pipeline Food’s commitment to safeguarding the integrity of organic, and to announce that Pipeline has successfully completed enrollment in the Organic Trade Association’s Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions, the first certified organic business to do so.
“The commitment that Pipeline Foods has shown to fighting fraud in the organic chain is truly inspiring, and we congratulate them for their diligence and determination, and for becoming the first to complete enrollment in our fraud prevention program,” said Laura Batcha, Executive Director and CEO of the Organic Trade Association. “Our Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions is a comprehensive and effective program, and we look forward to more organic stakeholders completing the process. Fighting fraud in the organic sector is everyone’s responsibility.”
The Organic Trade Association also announced the expansion of Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions to non-members. Enrollment in the program is now open to any U.S. Department of Agriculture certified organic business, or any organic business listed with a USDA Material Review Organization or MRO.
“Fraud can’t be prevented by any individual company,” said Gwendolyn Wyard, Vice President of Regulatory and Technical Affairs for the Organic Trade Association. “The whole organic system will be stronger if more companies develop fraud prevention plans, so we want to make our program available to all.”
Organic Trade Association and its members on the offensive against fraud
Protecting against fraud in the organic supply chain is a critical priority for the Organic Trade Association and its members. To help organic businesses have robust systems and measures in place to prevent and detect fraud, the Organic Trade Association spearheaded the development of organic fraud prevention best practices. Beginning with its member task force formed in 2017 to its launch of its groundbreaking Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions program in 2019, the trade association has moved proactively to confront the fraud challenge.
Pipeline Foods, the Minneapolis-based supplier of organic food, feedgrains and ingredients, has been actively engaged in the Organic Trade Association’s fraud-fighting efforts, joining the anti-fraud task force, participating in the association’s pilot program to test-drive its Organic Fraud Prevention Guide, and stepping up to be one of the first companies to enroll in the association’s Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions.
“Pipeline from Day 1 was founded on the principles of organic integrity – this issue has been in our DNA from the very beginning,” said Erin Heitkamp, Pipeline’s Senior Vice President – Impact. “Organic fraud is the biggest risk not only to Pipeline’s business, but to the success of the entire organic sector. Pipeline is a global operation, so we put a rigorous program in place early on to reduce the risk of fraud. Participating in the Organic Trade Association’s program has enabled us to implement several significant improvements to our fraud prevention plan.”
The Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions program requires training, an organic fraud vulnerability assessment and the development of an organic fraud prevention plan. The program is designed specifically to meet the unique needs of the organic supply chain and is based on buyer responsibility and supplier verification.
Fifty-five organic businesses have enrolled in the program. Companies in the program are provided a copy of the Organic Fraud Prevention Guide, which lays out a risk-based approach and specific recommendations for developing and implementing a written Organic Fraud Prevention Plan. Enrolled companies are signed up for an online training course, “Developing and Implementing an Organic Fraud Prevention Plan,” which was developed in partnership with Michigan State University. The course provides detailed background and instruction on how to carry out an organic fraud vulnerability assessment, and how to implement an effective fraud prevention plan.
Monte Ackerman, Pipeline’s Vice President – Operations Risk Management, and coordinator of Pipeline’s internal fraud prevention program, said the education and training resources provided by the Organic Trade Association’s program were invaluable, and helped Pipeline “identify room for improvement” in the company’s existing program.
“The Organic Trade Association’s program has helped us get at fraud prevention systematically with our supply chain partners and that’s where the power is — when we get the rest of the supply chain partners to recognize the size of the hazards and take it more seriously,” said Ackerman. “Also, for companies that may not have the education and background in developing a fraud prevention plan, the OTA program does a great job of connecting and lining up the resources.”
Reinforcing USDA’s organic standards
A pre-enrolled company completes enrollment in the program once it has worked through the program’s nine-step process. It then receives a certificate of completion. Confirmation from the company’s certifier that their Organic System Plan is updated with an Organic Fraud Prevention Plan is the final step to enrollment completion. The enrollment process is integrated into the organic certification cycle and maintained annually.
Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions is not a certification or verification program nor a product label. It is a quality assurance program designed to complement and reinforce USDA’s organic standards and the work of the accredited certifying agencies.
“The entire organic supply chain needs to address the challenge of fraud, and we are encouraged by Pipeline’s deep commitment to doing its part,” said Batcha.
“Our fraud prevention program is becoming the gold standard for the organic sector, and we urge more organic operators to follow Pipeline’s example and take advantage of our program,” stressed Batcha. “We all have a role to play in maintaining the integrity of organic and honoring the trust that consumers have placed in organic.”
For more information on the Organic Trade Association’s Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions and to enroll, see this page.
Above, a group of Pipeline’s team members doing a tour of its grain storage and processing facility in Hope, Minnesota, with Commissioner of Minnesota Department of Agriculture Thom Peterson. Pipeline’s development of its fraud prevention plan and its completion in its enrollment of Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions was a company-wide effort and commitment. Photo: OTA