Posted on September 11, 2018

USDA Nat’l Organic Program levies $5,000 in Q3 penalties

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said Monday it levied just $5,000 in civil penalties during the third quarter of FY2018 and closed out nearly a dozen appeals by organic operations and one certification agency.

The federal agency’s latest quarterly organic enforcement report shows it suspended 120 operations and revoked five from its National Organic Program (NOP) in the third quarter.

reached five settlement agreements with organic operators and levied $12,000 in civil penalties during the quarter (Jan. 1 – March 31).

Last week, the NOP released information on settlement agreements, dating back to September 2017, with 15 foreign and domestic certified-organic operations but did not include the amounts of civil penalties the companies had agreed to pay. Organic operations may reach settlements with the NOP to avoid suspension or revocation of organic certification.

The agency said that not all settlement agreements include civil penalties and not all civil penalties were levied via settlement agreements, and the amount of civil penalties initially levied may change during negotiation of settlements and individual penalty payments may be outstanding.

The NOP said of the 11 appeals that were closed three were closed because the certifiers and operations each reached a settlement agreement; seven appeals were closed because AMS and the operations each reached a settlement agreement; the other appeal was closed because the certifying agent did not renew its accreditation.

The NOP also received 7 new appeals during the third quarter.

The third quarter enforcement report also showed the agency received 103 complaints, and that it completed 63 complaint reviews and investigations.

The NOP also said during the third quarter it issued:

  • No orders to cease and desist representing agricultural products as organic
  • 23 notices of warning, which typically concern minor violations that have been corrected and advise businesses of penalties that may result from future violation
  • 33 referrals of investigations to accredited certifying agents, other federal agencies, state programs and international trading partners

Check out the second quarter enforcement report here.

According to the NOP’s Organic Integrity Database, so far in 2018, the NOP has suspended 356 operations, a 32 percent increase compared to the same period last year. The agency has also revoked the organic certificates of seven operations in 2018, compared to 10 revocations during the same period in 2017.

The breakdown for previous years looks like this:

  • 2017: 418 suspended and 16 revoked
  • 2016: 237 suspended and 17 revoked
  • 2015: 213 suspended and 18 revoked
  • 2014: 182 suspended and 17 revoked
  • 2013: 169 suspended and 18 revoked

In the past five years, the NOP has suspended or revoked more than 1,500 organic operations because of violations of federal organic standards.

Check out the enforcement reports for FY2017FY2016 and FY2015 enforcement reports.

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