November 2nd, 2023
The NOP (National Organic Program) is a department under the AMS (Agricultural Marketing Service) which is an agency under the USDA. The NOSB (National Organic Standards Board) is a Federal Advisory Committee of fifteen appointed members that make recommendations to the NOP. The NOP is also the agency that oversees auditors and certification companies. For companies that require certifications the NOP is who they report to. CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) is one of the largest certifiers and auditors and is very influential in the development and enforcement of all organic standards.
Culinary Specialty Produce is an organic broker who sells organic produce and never touches the product. According to the new rules from the NOP that is now the definition of a handler. As such we have had to go through what we call a non-handling handler (NHH) certification program. We believe this is extortion but we choose to play a valid player in the produce field, so we are now certified. For other non-handling handlers that are required to get certified, we would like to offer the sum of our experience to date. In short, while the NOP, through its new organic standards hopes to capture a lot of fraud, for a non-handling handler they are ill prepared to handlel this segment.
The crux of this program for NHH is food safety with an organic certification. What they are asking for is what the growers and packers already have so the paperwork is in triplicate. Simple collection of orders received, orders placed, passings, BOLS, and invoices is requested in fifteen different ways on just as many forms. Certifiers have attempted to use the form they use for farms and processing for NHH and insist in completion of sections NHH gave absolutely nothing to do with. One size fits all. Below are some examples of what we have seen happening now for a law that goes into effect in April of 2024. This is not hyperbole.
Originally certifiers wanted a percentage of organic sales and west coast certifiers had to have an auditor fly out for the in office audit. We found a certification company that does not charge a per centage and learned that there are independent auditors is most areas of the country.
Auditors are stepping up their game, showing major inconsistencies in certification. A certified handler in Florida received product we brokered from a CCOF certified grower in California. The auditor was questioning the organic certification of product in totes even though it was properly loaded, it was not listed as bulk on the certification pages. CCOF does not list bulk open totes, just the product and the retail packaging.
A customer in North Carolina had an audit on organic potatoes we brokered from a certified farm in Colorado. The auditor was requesting chemical residue tests for the current crop. The State of Colorado does its own organic certification and only performs chemical residue testing randomly. Last chemical residue test was done two years ago.
The certification company we work with developed another form recently to further cover its assurance its customers meet all the necessary requirements for certification. We were asked if we knew about drift. This would be pesticides and non-organic chemicals from a neighboring farm that drifted to an organic farm. How do NHH handle that? We were also questioned as to trucking (a curious
segment left out of the certification process) for LTL loads on trucks that were not ours. We were asked to provide every other manifest on that truck, the pallet position of that produce and all paper work as to the certified product on the truck. No!
We were also asked if we had a fraud program. We thought submitting the paperwork to a national data base would notify us if status changed, but no. We now have to check with the OID monitor system before every organic shipment we send.
This is what is happening now, a lot of it in the past ten days. We tried to find out if there was some sort of “step it up” memo released from the NOP in order to prove the value, but to no avail. It does seem to us that many auditors are going to ask, through their customers, for information from the NHH that is simply not available. This cold come back as a violation of the NHH for reasons both unknow and unreasonable.
We have decided to sidestep these issues completely. When questioned as the NHH we see it as our responsibility to provide the certification agency that certified the farm and ask the auditor to contact them. If pushed we will reach out to the certifying agency, find the specialist for that particular account, and forward their contact information to the auditor. Any attempt to try and resolve the situation is not the role of a NHH. We are simply another sector that can be billed for sending the exact same information they get from the farm.
The new rules that go into effect in April of 2024 will be law for five years at which time it will be up for review. Culinary Specialty Produce appreciates the opportunity to broker organic produce, but we are spec in the plethora of organic trading. We would be interested in finding like-minded NHH who would be interested in joining forces to challenge the need for certification of this sector. If it is deemed that the NHH sector be certified, then let them develop certification standards specific to the sector they bill.
We have dedicated this week’s Market Notes and a second page to make the 5 readers of our weekly newsletter aware of how these new rules are going down. A farce of a joke or a joke of a farce, if these enforcements are being questioned now, before the rule is actually in effect, we wonder how this will play out when it is a law.
NEW PRODUCE QUIZ – WHO AM I ???
Of our 600 varieties, we are mostly seeds that grow in pods, but we can also be a tuber or a sprout. We can be used fresh or dried. Usually, our pods are not edible but in some instances they are. We are a potent nutrient source though not complete. When combined with any grain we become a first-class protein and an excellent selection for vegetarian cookery. In this form we provide all the essential amino acids essential to a complete balanced protein. We are also a good source of complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. We combine well with other ingredients and flavorings because we do not have a very strong taste of our own. You will often find us mingling with garlic, tomatoes, oil, and other flavorings to keep us in good taste. Many of our heirloom varieties are enjoying a comeback in fine dining. As an agricultural crop, we can restore depleted soil through bacteria living symbiotically in our roots. We absorb nitrogen from the air, and balance the bacteria in the soil. Best with rice, in stir-fries or soups.
The answer to this last week’s quiz was… EGGPLANT… Congrats to all winners.
Visit us at www.culinaryproduce.com Phone 908-789-4700 – Fax 908-789-4702 – e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Like us @ Culinary Specialty Produce on Facebook
© Culinary Specialty Produce, Inc., 2023