top of page
Search
  • Writer's pictureVik F.

Organic Evolution: How New USDA Regulations Are Reshaping the Wine Import Industry

Updated: Apr 11

The recent unveiling of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) updated regulations under the National Organic Program (NOP) has sent ripples through the wine industry, particularly among importers of organic wines like Athena Bochanis, owner of New York-based Palinkerie. The introduction of the Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) rule, the most significant update since the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, aims to fortify the integrity of the organic label by ensuring that all entities in the supply chain, not just producers, are certified organic.



This development poses new challenges for small wine importers who were caught off guard by the sudden need to obtain organic certification to continue labeling their products as organic in the U.S. market. Many, like Bochanis, have expressed frustration over the lack of clear guidance from the USDA on how to navigate these changes, which became enforceable in March 2023.


The SOE rule requires that all handlers of organic goods, including brokers, traders, and importers, obtain organic certification, expanding the responsibility from merely the producers. This move is designed to enhance traceability and clamp down on organic label fraud, a response to past incidents where millions of pounds of non-organic grains were falsely labeled as organic.


Avoiding Violation: Steps for Compliance

To avoid running afoul of these new regulations, importers and other stakeholders in the organic wine sector need to undertake several steps:


  1. Understand the Requirements: Stakeholders must familiarize themselves with the SOE rule's specifics, including who needs certification and the process for obtaining it. The USDA’s NOP website and official documents should be primary resources for accurate information.

  2. Obtain Certification: Entities involved in handling organic products must apply for certification through accredited agencies. This process includes submitting detailed descriptions of their operations, the types of organic products handled, and their procedures for maintaining organic integrity.

  3. Prepare for Inspection: Once an application is submitted, businesses should prepare for an inspection that will assess their compliance with NOP standards. This includes verifying the traceability of organic products and ensuring that non-organic substances do not contaminate them.

  4. Maintain Records: Keeping comprehensive records of the purchase, handling, and sales of organic products is crucial. These documents must be readily available for inspection and review by certifying agents.

  5. Stay Informed: Regulations and policies can evolve, so it’s vital for businesses to stay informed about any changes in organic certification requirements or enforcement practices.


The immediate impact of these regulations on the wine industry, particularly for small importers, includes increased operational complexities and costs related to obtaining and maintaining organic certification. However, these measures are believed to ultimately benefit the industry by enhancing the credibility of organic labels and protecting consumers from fraudulent practices.


As the wine industry adjusts to these new requirements, the value of clear communication and support from the USDA becomes increasingly apparent. Ensuring that all parties involved in the organic supply chain are well-informed and prepared for compliance will be key to a smooth transition and the sustained growth of the organic wine market.


Sources:


Comments


With each sip facilitated and every brand story told, we meticulously design moments that resonate, ensuring your brand isn't just tasted, but remembered.

bottom of page