USDA Proposes Blockchain Ledger for Organic Product Supply Chain

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed amending its rules on organic products to include implementing blockchain technology to trace its supply chain.

According to an Aug. 5 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), the agency said it expects electronic tracking systems, including digital ledger technology (DLT), will play an “essential role” in the traceability of its supply chain of organic products.

“DLT can provide secure, verifiable, transparent, and near-instantaneous tracking at the item level in complex supply chains,” the report stated. “Critically, DLT can also protect confidential business information and trade secret information by automatically restricting sensitive information to authorized entities.”

However, the agency acknowledged that utilizing an emergent technology like DLT would require additional time and development before a system could be implemented in the organic food industry. 

“Barriers to widespread adoption of an electronic tracking system include inadequate access to technology and connectivity in rural areas, acceptance of universal electronic standards (interoperability), and distribution of costs,” the proposed amendment stated. 

Test cases for supply chains

The USDA report did not mention blockchain technology by name, but cited several pilot programs as references, including Walmart using blockchain traceability systems for mangos and pork, Swiss-headquartered food retail giant Nestlé testing a public blockchain for its milk supply chain, and U.S.-based seafood firm Bumble Bee Foods monitoring the supply chain of yellowfin tuna from Indonesia.

Any individuals, businesses, or organizations participating in the global organic agricultural product supply chain that are not currently required to be certified under USDA’s existing program can review the proposed rule and submit comments before October 5.