Action Alert: NOP must do better to keep fraudulent grain imports out of the US

U.S. organic farmers identified organic import fraud as your number one priority issue for OFA’s work in 2019.  We are here to work for you, and now we need your help. 

On Friday, May 3, 2019 Organic Farmers Association received a tip that a ship loaded in Turkey was destined for a North Carolina port with a high-risk shipment of bulk organic grain.  We were notified that the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) had been alerted to this ship through a formal filed complaint. OFA asked a contact in North Carolina to request that the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDACS) call their local Customs and Border Protection (CBP) office to alert them of this high-risk ship and that its organic status should be verified before the bulk cargo was unloaded and then distributed  in the United States. On Monday, May 6, we were told NCDACS and CBP communicated effectively and CBP communicated with USDA NOP.

On Tuesday, May 7, we were told NOP told CBP the shipment was NOT fraudulent and did not ask CBP to inspect the ship—CBP couldn’t inspect for organic integrity without a request from USDA.  Yet just two days later on May 9, the USDA NOP announced that they had revoked the accreditation of the organic certifier, Control Union, that was likely certifier of the grain on the ship.  The grain onboard the ship was high-risk for organic fraud, and NOP knew that, yet NOP did not use their relationship and authority with Customs and Border Protection to act to protect U.S. organic farmers and consumers. 

We find this unacceptable.  We need your help. 

Please call or email your Congressperson and Senators with the below message:

To call your Congressperson and Senators, dial the capitol switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Click here for your Congressperson’s email.   Click here for your Senators’ emails.

On May 7, USDA National Organic Program did not permit Customs and Border Protection to inspect allegedly organic grain onboard the bulk cargo ship at a North Carolina port—even though they were just about to revoke accreditation of the organic certifier who had certified this grain—making the grain high risk for fraud.  U.S. organic farmers and consumers deserve better protection from our government.  We would appreciate your help in this matter.

Would you please call USDA Marketing and Regulatory Programs Under Secretary Greg Ibach, who is responsible for the National Organic Program (NOP), at 202-720-3631 and ask that for every ship importing bulk or container organic products (most will carry an organic import code), the NOP request Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to check the following four things as standard protocol:

  1. Require use of the appropriate organic import code. Verify and notate code.
  2. Check for a valid organic certificate or other paperwork identifying the organic status of the cargo.
  3. Check for pesticide residues by taking a pesticide residue test of the cargo. If it is under the “5 percent of EPA tolerance” for that pesticide, then the cargo can be verified as organic.  If the residue is above the 5% of EPA tolerance threshold it should be marked as conventional and not permitted to be unloaded as organic and USDA NOP should be notified.
  4. Check for increased risk of carrying insects and pests. If CBP requires that fumigation be used on the cargo, the cargo should be marked as conventional and not permitted to be unloaded as organic and USDA NOP should be notified.

We need better protection of U.S. organic farmers and consumers at our borders.  Fraudulent organic imports need to be stopped.  We ask you to strongly encourage USDA NOP and CBP to immediately implement this protocol at U.S. borders for all organic organororganic organic bulk imports.