From the National Organic Coalition (NOC). The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) remains closed as the government shutdown continues for a fifth week and the NOP has canceled its annual certifier training, which was scheduled for January 29 in Greenville, South Carolina. The training provides critical information pertaining to organic standards and their enforcement to approximately 200 staff from certification agencies.
While enforcement activities by certifying agents will continue, enforcement activities conducted by the NOP, including investigations, suspensions of certifiers and operators, and issuance of penalties for violations, cannot be performed until the USDA is reopened.
There are also concerns about the implementation of new provisions included in the 2018 Farm Bill to address organic import fraud. In 2019, the NOP is planning to publish a new proposed regulation to strengthen enforcement in the organic sector. A prolonged shutdown could delay publication of the new rule. If NOP remains closed for a long stretch, that could also impact upcoming National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meetings. The next NOSB meeting is scheduled to take place in Seattle in April.
Pressure to reopen the government is growing – 800,000 federal workers will miss a second paycheck on Friday if the shutdown continues – but there is not yet a clear path forward to end the shutdown.