The National Organic Program

ams at usda

labeling and marketing information

The Organic Foods Production Act and the National Organic Program (NOP) are intended to assure consumers that the organic foods they purchase are produced, processed, and certified to consistent national organic standards. The labeling requirements of the new program apply to raw, fresh products and processed foods that contain organic ingredients. Foods that are sold, labeled, or represented as organic will have to be produced and processed in accordance with the NOP standards.

 

Except for operations whose gross agricultural income from organic sales totals $5,000 or less, farm and processing operations that grow and process organic foods must be certified by USDA-accredited certifying agents. A certified operation may label its products or ingredients as organic and may use the "USDA Organic" seal.

 

Labeling requirements are based on the percentage of organic ingredients in a product.

Foods labeled "100 percent organic" and "organic"

 

Products labeled as "100 percent organic" must contain (excluding water and salt) only organically produced ingredients.

 

Products labeled "organic" must consist of at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt). Any remaining product ingredients must consist of nonagricultural substances approved on the National List or non-organically produced agricultural products that are not commercially available in organic form.

 

Products meeting the requirements for "100 percent organic" and "organic" may display these terms and the percentage of organic content on their principal display panel.

 

The USDA seal and the seal or mark of involved certifying agents may appear on product packages and in advertisements.

 

Foods labeled "100 percent organic" and "organic" cannot be produced using excluded methods, sewage sludge, or ionizing radiation.

 

Processed products labeled "made with organic ingredients"

 

Processed products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients can use the phrase "made with organic ingredients" and list up to three of the organic ingredients or food groups on the principal display panel. For example, soup made with at least 70 percent organic ingredients and only organic vegetables may be labeled either "soup made with organic peas, potatoes, and carrots," or "soup made with organic vegetables."

 

Processed products labeled "made with organic ingredients" cannot be produced using excluded methods, sewage sludge, or ionizing radiation.

 

The percentage of organic content and the certifying agent seal or mark may be used on the principal display panel. However, the USDA seal cannot be used anywhere on the package.

 

Processed products that contain less than 70 percent organic ingredients

 

These products cannot use the term organic anywhere on the principal display panel. However, they may identify the specific ingredients that are organically produced on the ingredients statement on the information panel.

 

Other labeling provisions

 

Any product labeled as organic must identify each organically produced ingredient in the ingredient statement on the information panel.

 

The name and address of the certifying agent of the final product must be displayed on the information panel.

 

There are no restrictions in this final rule on use of other truthful labeling claims such as "no drugs or growth hormones used," "free range," or "sustainably harvested."

 

Penalties for misuse of labels

 

A civil penalty of up to $10,000 can be levied on any person who knowingly sells or labels as organic a product that is not produced and handled in accordance with the National Organic Program's regulations.

 

When the new regulations become effective, organic farmers and handlers will have 18 months to adjust their growing and processing operations and revise their product labels to conform to the new standards.

 

October 2002

 

labeling packaged products

These requirements do not preempt Food and Drug Administration; USDA, Food Safety and Inspection Service; or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms labeling regulations or label approval requirements.

Letter Codes for the information below indicate position on package and are defined as follows:

PDP:  Principal Display Panel
IP: Information Panel
IS: Ingredients Statement
OP: Any Other Panel

If you want to claim: 

"100 percent Organic" (or similar statement)

Your product:

Must contain 100 percent organically produced ingredients, not counting added water and salt.

Your label MUST:

Show an ingredient statement when the product consists of more than one ingredient.

Show below the name and address of the handler (bottler, distributor, importer, manufacturer, packer, processor, etc.) of the finished product, the statement:

"Certified organic by ____" or similar phrase, followed by the name of the Certifying Agent.  Certifying Agent seals may not be used to satisfy this requirement. (IP)

Your label MAY show:

The term "100 percent organic" to modify the product name. (PDP/IP/OP)

The term, "organic" to identify the organic ingredients1.  Water and salt included as ingredients must not be identified as organic. (IS)

The USDA organic seal and/or certifying agent seal(s). (PDP/OP)

The certifying agent business/Internet address or telephone number. (IP)

Your label MUST NOT show:

Not applicable


1 To identify an ingredient as organically produced, in the ingredients statement, use the word, "organic" in conjunction with the name of the ingredient, or an asterisk or other reference mark which is defined below the ingredient statement.

If you want to claim:

"Organic" (or similar statement)

Your product:

Must contain at least 95% organic ingredients, not counting added water and salt.

Must not contain added sulfites.

May contain up to 5% of:

  1. nonorganically produced agricultural ingredients which are not commercially available in organic form; and/or
  2. other substances allowed by 7 CFR 205.605.

Your label MUST:

Show an ingredient statement.

List the organic ingredients as "organic" when other organic labeling is shown.1  Water and salt included as ingredients must not be identified as organic. (IS)

Show below the name and address of the handler (bottler, distributor, importer, manufacturer, packer, processor, etc.) of the finished product, the statement:

"Certified organic by ___" or similar phrase, followed by the name of the Certifying Agent.  Certifying Agent seals may not be used to satisfy this requirement.  (IP)

Your label MAY show:

The term "Organic" to modify the product name. (PDP/IP/OP)

"X% organic" or "X% organic ingredients." (PDP/IP/OP)

The USDA Organic seal and/or certifying agent seal(s). (PDP/OP)

The certifying agent business/Internet address or telephone number. (IP)

Your label MUST NOT show:

Not applicable


1 To identify an ingredient as organically produced, in the ingredients statement, use the word, "organic" in conjunction with the name of the ingredient, or an asterisk or other reference mark which is defined below the ingredient statement.

If you want to claim:

"Made with Organic Ingredients" (or similar statement)

Your product:

Must contain at least 70% organic ingredients, not counting added water and salt.

Must not contain added sulfites; except that, wine may contain added sulfur dioxide in accordance with 7 CFR 205.605.

May contain up to 30% of:

  1. nonorganically produced agricultural ingredients; and/or
  2. other substances, including yeast, allowed by 7 CFR 205.605.

Your label MUST:

Show an ingredient statement.

List the organic ingredients as "organic" when other organic labeling is shown.1  Water and salt included as ingredients must not be identified as organic. (IS)

Show below the name and address of the handler (bottler, distributor, importer, manufacturer, packer, processor, etc.) of the finished product, the statement:

"Certified organic by ___" or similar phrase, followed by the name of the Certifying Agent.  Certifying Agent seals may not be used to satisfy this requirement.  (IP)

Your label MAY show:

The term "Made with organic ___ (specified ingredients or food groups)." (PDP/IP/OP)

"X% organic" or "X% organic ingredients." (PDP/IP/OP)

The certifying agent seal(s). (PDP/OP)

The certifying agent business/Internet address or telephone number. (IP)

Your label MUST NOT show:

The USDA Organic seal


1 To identify an ingredient as organically produced, in the ingredients statement, use the word, "organic" in conjunction with the name of the ingredient, or an asterisk or other reference mark which is defined below the ingredient statement.

 

If you want to claim:

That your product has some organic ingredients

Your product:

May contain less than 70% organic ingredients, not counting added water and salt.

May contain over 30% of:

a.       nonorganically produced agricultural ingredients; and/or

b.       other substances, without being limited to those in 7 CFR 205.605

Your label MUST:

Show an ingredient statement when the word organic is used.

Show "X% organic ingredients" when organically produced ingredients are identified in the ingredient statement. (IP)

Your label MAY show:

The organic status of ingredients in the ingredients statement.1 Water and salt included as ingredients must not be identified as organic. (IS)

Your label MUST NOT show:

Any other reference to organic contents.

The USDA Organic seal.

The certifying agent seal.

1 To identify an ingredient as organically produced, in the ingredients statement, use the word, "organic" in conjunction with the name of the ingredient, or an asterisk or other reference mark which is defined below the ingredient statement.

July 31, 2002

 

questions and answers

The questions and answers below are categorized by subject matter and will be updated on a monthly basis.

General Topics

 

Q:  Where can I get a copy of the National Organic Program regulations?

 

A:  You can obtain a copy of the NOP regulations by contacting the NOP through this website.

Definitions

There are no Questions and Answers for Definitions at this time

Applicability

 

Q:  When must organic producers and handlers be certified to continue to market their product as organic?

 

A:  Beginning on October 21, 2002, producers and handlers must be certified by a USDA-accredited certifying agent to sell, label, or represent their products as "100 percent organic," "organic," or "made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s)." Please see section 205.101 for exemptions from certification.

 

Q:  I am a small farmer. Will I have to be certified?

 

A:  It depends. If your gross agricultural income from organic sales total $5,000 or less annually, you are exempt from certification (see section 205.101(a)(1) of the NOP regulations). Exempt operations must comply with the applicable requirements of subpart C and the labeling requirements at section 205.310 of the NOP regulations.

 

Q:  I am a small processor. Do I have to be certified?  

 

A:  It depends. If your gross agricultural income from organic sales total $5,000 or less annually, you are exempt from certification (see section 205.101(a)(1) of the NOP regulations). Exempt operations must comply with the applicable requirements of subpart C and the labeling requirements at section 205.310 of the NOP regulations.  For other possible handler exemptions see section 205.101 of the NOP regulations.

 

Q:  I sell less than $5,000 worth of organic product. Can I be certified?

 

A:  Yes. Any qualified agricultural production or handling operation may be certified as an organic production and handling operation. This includes all qualified production and handling operations eligible for exemption or exclusion under section 205.101 of the NOP regulations.

 

Q:  Can non-certified companies use the word "organic?"

 

A:  Producers and handlers that qualify for exemption or exclusion from certification may use the term "organic" in compliance with the labeling requirements specific to their exemption or exclusion (see section 205.101 of NOP regulations).

 

Q: What type of records would be acceptable to National Organic Program as proof of exempt organic operations showing compliance with the labeling requirements, production requirements, handling requirements, record keeping, audit trail, and non use of prohibited substances.  

 

A: Examples of records to be kept by exempt operations are listed in the preamble of Subpart B, Applicability. Exempt operations must comply with the applicable organic production and handling requirements of subpart C of the national standards and meet the labeling requirements of section 205.310. Therefore, each exempt operation should maintain records which demonstrate compliance with the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990 and the national standards. It is the decision of the exempt operation as to which records it needs to demonstrate compliance.

 

Q: Are exempt operations subject to National Organic Program (NOP) audit? If so, what fee would be charged to those operations?

 

A: Yes. Exempt operations that produce or handle agricultural products to be sold, labeled, or represented as "100 percent organic" or "organic" are subject to NOP compliance audits. Costs associated with compliance audits would be borne by the NOP.

 

Q: How was the gross receipt threshold of $5,000 established? What steps would be necessary to raise the limit?

 

A: The $5,000 producer or handler exemption in §205.101(a) of the national standards was mandated by OFPA (7 U.S.C. 6505(d)). Actions necessary to raise the limit of the $5,000 producer/handler exemption would include congressional amendment of OFPA §6505(d).

 

Q: Please explain who may use the term organic and how the term is to be used.

 

A: Any production or handling operation certified according to the provisions of subpart E, Certification, may use the term "organic" (§205.100). Production or handling operations that are exempted or excluded under §205.101 may use the term "organic" according to the regulations specified in §205.310, Labeling; provided, they comply with the production and handling requirements of subpart C of the national standards.

 

Q: What are the penalties for misuse of the term "organic"?

 

A: Any operation that knowingly sells or labels a product as "organic", except in accordance with the Act (OFPA) and the national standards, may be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $10,000 per violation and the provisions of 18 U.S.C 1001.

 

Q: Who will be responsible for the enforcement of the National Organic Program and how will a typical prosecution proceed?

 

A: USDA, accredited certifying agents, and where applicable, approved State Organic Programs will be responsible for enforcement of the national regulations. Compliance procedures for certified organic operations, accredited certifying agents, and State Organic Programs are specified in sections 205.660 through 205.668 of the national standards.

 

Q: When a retail establishment markets products supplied from a certified producer, in the event the producer is found non-compliant, will the retailer be subject to any legal recourse from the NOP? Do the same rules apply (to the retailer) for products produced by exempt and non-exempt producers?

 

A: If a provider of product to a retail food establishment is found to be in violation of the national organic standards and the retail food establishment is not a party to that violation, there will be no action by the National Organic Program (NOP) against the retail food establishment. This holds true for certified producers and handlers as well as those claiming exemption under section 205.101.

 

Any person, including a retail food establishment, who knowingly sells or labels a product as organic, except in accordance with the OFPA and the national organic standards, shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $10,000 per violation.

 

Products that have entered the channels of commerce before the certified operation's suspension or revocation will not result in a product recall, unless the non-compliance involves a food safety issue. For further information see page 80627 of the national organic standards.

Organic Production and Handling Requirements

Posted 12/9/02 
 

Q:  I operate a certified organic farm, and I wish to purchase compost from a commercial compost operation.  Does this compost have to be certified organic?

 

A:  No.  Although a commercial compost operation may become USDA certified, there is no requirement for it to do so, and there is no requirement for you to use certified organic compost. 

 

However, any compost you use must meet all the requirements of the NOP regulations, section 205.203.  The burden of proving that a compost used on a certified organic operation meets all the requirements of section 205.203 rests with the certified organic operation that uses the compost.  That operation must show in its organic systems plan, and be able to prove to its certifying agent, that the compost it uses meets the NOP requirements. 

 

Posted 10/18/02
 

Q:  Must seeds for cover crops be organic? 

 

A:  Yes, unless conditions meet those outlined in Section 205.204, provided below:

§ 205.204 Seeds and planting stock practice standard.

(a) The producer must use organically grown seeds, annual seedlings, and planting stock: Except, That,

 

(1) Nonorganically produced, untreated seeds and planting stock may be used to produce an organic crop when an equivalent organically produced variety is not commercially available, Except, That, organically produced seed must be used for the production of edible sprouts;

 

(2) Nonorganically produced seeds and planting stock that have been treated with a substance included on the National List of synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production may be used to produce an organic crop when an equivalent organically produced or untreated variety is not commercially available;

 

(3) Nonorganically produced annual seedlings may be used to produce an organic crop when a temporary variance has been granted in accordance with § 205.290(a)(2);

 

(4) Nonorganically produced planting stock to be used to produce a perennial crop may be sold, labeled, or represented as organically produced only after the planting stock has been maintained under a system of organic management for a period of no less than 1 year; and

(5) Seeds, annual seedlings, and planting stock treated with prohibited substances may be used to produce an organic crop when the application of the materials is a requirement of Federal or State phytosanitary regulations. 

 

Posted 10/16/02
 

Q:  Can wood treated with fungicides or other prohibited substances be used for fence posts, trellis systems, etc., in organic production? 

 

A:  As provided in Section 205.206(f), the producer must not use lumber treated with arsenate or other prohibited materials for new installations or replacement purposes in contact with soil or livestock.  The Preamble (Crop Production--Changes Based on Comments (7)) elaborates on 205.206(f) as follows: 

“This provision prohibits the use of lumber treated with arsenate or other prohibited materials for new installations or replacement purposes in contact with an organic production site. We included this modification to clarify that the prohibition applies to lumber used in direct contact with organically produced and handled crops and livestock and does not include uses, such as lumber for fence posts or building materials, that are isolated from production. The prohibition applies to lumber used in crop production, such as the frames of a planting bed, and for raising livestock, such as the boards used to build a farrowing house.”

 

Q:  Do fields have to meet any size requirements in order to produce crops certified as organic?

 

A:  No. There are no field-size requirements relative to whether or not an operation can be certified organic.

Q:  Is the feed that is fed to organic livestock and poultry "vegetarian" feed?

 

A:  Not necessarily. Although as stated in the National Organic Standards subpart C, section 205.237(b)(5), "The producer of an organic operation must not feed mammalian or poultry slaughter by-products to mammals or poultry." there is no restriction against organic livestock feed containing appropriate fish products.

 

Q:  I know organic agriculture prohibits the use of GMOs, but do the guidelines allow for a small amount of contamination?

 

A:  As GMO contamination of organic crops relates to genetic drift, the Preamble to the National Organic Program regulations, Applicability, Clarifications (1) Genetic Drift, states:

"This regulation prohibits the use of excluded methods [which include GMOs] in organic operations. The presence of a detectable residue of a product of excluded methods alone does not necessarily constitute a violation of this regulation. As long as an organic operation has not used excluded methods and takes reasonable steps to avoid contact with the products of excluded methods as detailed in their approved organic system plan, the unintentional presence of the products of excluded methods should not affect the status of an organic product or operation."

 

However, if a certifying agent has reason to suspect that an organic product has come into contact with prohibited substances or been produced using excluded methods, the certifying agent can call for testing, which under certain conditions could result in that product no longer being considered "organic."

 

For a complete discussion of this issue, you must read the National Organic Standards, subpart G, Administrative, sections 205.670 – 205.671.

 

Q:  Can reclaimed water be used for irrigation on organic farms?

 

A:  Generally, the National Organic Standards place no further restrictions on reclaimed water used for irrigation beyond those imposed by State Departments of Natural Resources. However, to fully answer this question, we would need to know how and from what source the water is being reclaimed.

 

Q:  We are a meat processing plant interested in processing all natural pork and beef. What kind of general information can you give us?

 

A:  There are now specific USDA standards that must be met by all producers and processors who wish to label their agricultural products as organic. (Please note that "natural" is not synonymous with "organic.") These producers and handlers must be certified by USDA-accredited certifying agents by October 21, 2002. The organic standards for producing and processing livestock can be found in the National Organic Standards, subpart C, Sections 205.236 – 205.272.

 

A list of USDA accredited certifying agents can be found on the NOP website at www.ams.usda.gov/nop.

 

Q:  Must manure used to fertilize organic crops come from an organic source, that is from an animal that has been raised in accordance with the organic standards?

 

A:  No. There are no restrictions as to the source of manure. For greater detail on soil fertility and crop nutrient management, please read the National Organic Program regulations, subpart C, section 205.203. This topic is further discussed in the Preamble to the National Organic Program regulations, under the section headed Crop Production, Changes Requested but Not Made, (2) No Prohibition on Manure from Nonorganic Operations.

 

Q:  Are there any known health hazards associated with using animal waste as fertilizer for organic crops?

 

A:  Properly managed animal waste should not cause any known health hazards. Animal waste used to fertilize organic crops must be managed in accordance with the National Organic Program regulations’ soil fertility and crop nutrient management practice standard, as stated in the National Organic Program regulations, subpart C, section 205.203(c), which states, "The producer must manage plant and animal materials to maintain or improve soil organic matter content in a manner that does not contribute to contamination of crops, soil, or water by plant nutrients, pathogenic organisms, heavy metals, or residues of prohibited substances." See this section for a description of plant and animal materials, including manure and compost.

 

Q:  Is it safe to say that using organic fertilizers and other organic farming practices is better for the soil and less of a threat to ground and surface water than commercial methods?

 

A:  USDA’s National Organic Program is a marketing program and makes no claims that organic farming is "better" in any respect than conventional farming.

 

Q:  Has the National Organic Program issued any guidance or sample plans regarding the development of production and handling system plans?

 

A:  The National Organic Program has issued no specific guidance or samples relating to the development of organic production and handling system plans. However the NOP is helping to fund the development of crop and livestock checksheets designed for organic farmers to use in assessing their compliance with the National Organic Standards. The checksheets are being developed by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). For more information, visit NCAT’s website at www.ncat.org.

 

Q:  Is the use of ionizing radiation allowed at any stage of production or handling of agricultural products labeled organic?

 

A:  No. Irradiation in the production and handling of organic food is prohibited by the National Organic Standards, subpart B, Applicability, section 205.105, Allowed and prohibited substances, methods, and ingredients in organic production and handling, which states, "To be sold or labeled as '100 percent organic,' 'organic,' or 'made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s)),' the product must be produced and handled without the use of: (f) Ionizing radiation, as described in Food and Drug Administration regulation, 21 CFR 179.26 ...

 

Q:  Under the National Organic Standards, can the certifying agent approve ion exchange for the processing of organic foods?

 

A: The National Organic Standards do not prohibit the use of ion exchange in organic food processing as a technology.  However, the National Organic Standards do prohibit the use of synthetic substances used in or on processed products unless included in National List section 205.605 as an allowed substance.  Accordingly, ion exchange may not be used in the processing of organic foods unless the synthetic substances used in the ion exchange process are listed as approved substances in National List section 205.605.

 

Q:  Can I use homeopathic treatments to treat my livestock?

 

A:  The National Organic Standards do not prohibit use of homeopathic treatments in the production of organic livestock.  The producer must make certain that such treatment(s) does not contain a prohibited substance.  (Section 205.105(a))

 

Q:  Can I remove organic calves from my farm, raise them conventionally for a year, bring them back to the farm, and then manage them organically for one year prior to the production of organic milk and milk products?

 

A:  No.  Livestock or edible livestock products that are removed from an organic operation and subsequently managed on a nonorganic operation may not be sold, labeled, or represented as organically produced.  (Section 205.236(b)(1))

 

Q:  Can I sell an organic dairy animal as slaughter stock?

 

A:  Dairy animals that have been under continuous organic management since the last third of gestation may be sold, labeled, or represented as organic slaughter stock.  Conversely, dairy animals that have not been under continuous organic management since the last third of gestation may not be sold, labeled, or represented as organic slaughter stock.  (Section 205.236(b)(2))

 

Q:  Do all dairy animals have to be organic from the last third of gestation to produce organic milk or milk products?

 

A:  No.  Milk or milk products must be from animals that have been under continuous organic management beginning no later than 1 year prior to the production of the milk or milk products that are to be sold, labeled, or represented as organic.  Except that, in the case of the conversion of an entire distinct herd, the animals must receive a minimum of 80 percent feed that is either organic or raised from land included in the organic system plan and managed in compliance with organic crop requirements during the first 9 months of the 1-year conversion period.  (Section 205.236(a)(2))

 

Q:  Does Breeder Seed need to be raised organically in order for its progeny; i.e., Foundation, Registered, and/or Certified1 Seed, to be sold, labeled, or represented as organic seed? 

 

A:  No.  The seed of any generation planted with conventional, untreated seed and produced under organic conditions can be certified as organic.  In other words, untreated seed of Foundation, Registered, or Certified generations may be sown in an organic seed field/cage/greenhouse, and the progeny will qualify as organic seed.  Many varieties are only legal for sale as a class of certified seed according to the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVP), Title V.  Check with your official state seed certification agency for the specific varieties protected by PVP, Title V.  Additionally, it is not necessary to use only genetically1 certified 2 untreated seed to produce organic seed.  Any generation of “common,” untreated seed may also be used. 

 1 The use of the term “genetically” in this sentence in no way implies or authorizes the use of genetically modified organisms.
2
Certified – As defined by the Federal Seed Act Regulations (7 C.F.R. 201(2) (ee)).

 

Q:  Does organic seed always need to be used to produce an organic crop?   

 

A:  For edible sprouts, yes; for all other organic crops, no.  The National Organic Standards (7 C.F.R. 205.204 (a) (1)) provides that nonorganically produced, untreated seeds may be used to produce an organic crop when an equivalent organically produced variety is not commercially available.   The National Organic Standards (7 C.F.R. 205.204 (a) (2)) also provides that nonorganically produced, treated seeds may be used to produce an organic crop when an equivalent organically produced or untreated variety is not commercially available.  The seed treatment, however, must be with a substance included on the National List of synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production.  The only time that a seed treated with a prohibited substance may be used to produce an organic crop is when use of the prohibited substance is a requirement of Federal or State phytosanitary regulations.

 

Q:  How does the National Organic Program (NOP) interpret “equivalent variety” in 7 C.F.R. 205.504(a) (1-2)?

A: 
An equivalent variety means a variety exhibiting the same “type” (such as head lettuce types, leaf lettuce types, etc.) and similar agronomic characteristics such as insect and disease resistance when compared to the original varietal choice.   

 

“Type” is defined by the Federal Seed Act of 1939 (7 U.S.C. 1551-1661.) as either (A) a group of varieties so nearly similar that the individual varieties cannot be clearly differentiated except under special conditions, or (B) when used with a variety name means seed of the variety named which may be mixed with seed of other varieties of the same kind and similar character, the manner of and the circumstances connected with the use of the designation to be governed by the rules and regulations prescribed under section 1592 of the Federal Seed Act. 

 

Variety is defined by the Federal Seed Act as a subdivision of a kind which is characterized by growth, plant, fruit, seed, or other characters by which it can be differentiated from other sorts of the same kind, for example, Marquis wheat, Flat Dutch cabbage, Manchu soybeans, Oxheart carrot, and so forth.  Kind means one or more related species or subspecies which singly or collectively is known by one common name, for example, soybean, flax, carrot, radish, cabbage, cauliflower, and so forth.

 

Q:  How many generations removed from the present must a grower research the breeding techniques for a given variety to ensure compliance with the NOP?  In many cases it is impossible to research breeding techniques of older varieties as breeding methods are usually highly confidential and in some cases lost to history. 

 

A:  Effective October 21, 2002, plant breeders developing new varieties for use in certified organic production must comply with the requirements of the NOP.   

All varieties (open pollinated and hybrid) in existence prior to October 21, 2002 may be used by organic producers provided that these varieties have not been produced using Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).   

What constitutes GMO is defined by NOP through the term “excluded methods,” (7 C.F.R. 205.2).

 

Q:  How detailed does my Organic Systems Plan (OSP) have to be?

 

A:  The OSP must be sufficient in detail for the certifying agent to determine that your production or handling operation is in compliance with the applicable NOP regulations. The extent of this detail will be determined in collaboration with your certifying agent.

 

Q:  Do I have to follow the Organic System Plan (OSP) I have filed with my certifying agent?

 

A:  Yes. Your OSP is a detailed description of how your operation will achieve, document, and sustain compliance with all applicable provisions of the NOP regulations. Before granting certification to your operation, your certifying agent must concur that your OSP fulfills the requirements of NOP regulations. Your OSP must be annually updated and approved by your certifying agent (see section 205.406 of the NOP regulations). In addition, your OSP may be modified at any time upon request to and written approval from your certifying agent. If you deviate from your previously approved OSP without written approval from your certifying agent, you are no longer in compliance with NOP regulations and could be subject to suspension or revocation of your certification.

 

Q:  Do NOP regulations require the use of organic seed?

 

A:  NOP regulations require the use of organic seed when commercially available. For your options when organic seed is not commercially available see section 205.204 of the NOP regulations or consult your certifying agent.

 

Q:  During the implementation period can a processor (handler) continue to use product ingredients sourced from production operations that have not been certified by a USDA accredited certifier, but have been certified by other certifiers?

 

A:  Yes. During the implementation period, a handler would be allowed to source organic agricultural product ingredients from operations that have not been certified by a USDA accredited certifier. All organic handling operations must discontinue such practices and comply with NOP regulations by October 21, 2002.

 

Q:  How will I find out about changes regarding laws, regulations, policies, and procedures?

 

A:  The NOP will notify accredited certifying agents of changes and pending changes to laws, regulations, policies, and procedures and post such changes and pending changes to its website. Certifying agents should, in turn, notify their clients of such changes and pending changes. Amendments to the NOP regulations will require rulemaking with an opportunity for public comment. This rulemaking is published in the Federal Register. The NOP will issue news releases on Federal Register publications and post such news releases and Federal Register documents to its website.

 

Q:  How will a National Organic Program audit of a producer be conducted?

 

A:  Producer audits/evaluations will be conducted by accredited certifying agents according to the provisions specified in subpart E, Certification, of the national standards.

 

Q:  When are the greenhouse production and apicultural standards expected to be published?

 

A: Proposed greenhouse and mushroom standards were announced by the National Organic Standards Board’s (NOSB) Crops Committee at the June 2001 NOSB meeting. The proposals were posted at the NOSB link on the National Organic Program (NOP) website for public comment through July 31, 2001. The NOSB created an apiculture task force at its June 2001 meeting. Final recommendations for greenhouse, mushroom and apiculture standards will be submitted to the full NOSB for review and approval at its October 15 - 17, 2001, meeting in Washington, D.C. Pending the NOSB decision on the proposed recommendations, the NOP will begin rulemaking for greenhouse, mushroom and apiculture standards in October 2001. NOP’s goal will be implementation of these standards by October 21, 2002.

 

Q:  Please provide discussion, examples, and guidance. on buffer zones. Section 205.202 requires distinct boundaries and "adequate" buffer zones, but minimums are not specified, nor is the term adequate defined.

 

A:  Section 202.202(c) requires distinct, defined boundaries and buffer zones to prevent the unintended application of a prohibited substance to land under organic management.

In examining this issue, USDA concluded that imposing a specific size for buffer zones could impose unnecessary burdens on some organic producers without offering greater protection of organic fields and crops from unintended contact with prohibited substances. For example, buffer zones might not be needed for an organic farm if it were completely surrounded by wilderness or areas not in agricultural production. Accordingly, the national standards do not specify specific dimensions for buffer zones, but leaves the determination of their size to the organic producer and the certifying agent on a case-by-case basis.

 

It has always been the responsibility of organic operations to manage potential contact of organic products with other substances not approved for use in organic production systems. The organic system plan must outline steps that an organic operation will take to avoid drift from neighboring operations, particularly drift of synthetic chemical pesticides.

 

When considering drift issues, both certifying agents and producers must remember that organic standards are process based. Certifying agents attest to the ability of organic operations to follow a set of production standards and practices that meet the requirements of the Organic Foods Production Act and the national standards. The national standards prohibit the use of genetically modified organisms (defined in the standards as excluded methods) in organic operations. The presence of a detectable residue of a product of excluded methods alone does not necessarily constitute a violation of the regulations. As long as an organic operation has not used excluded methods and takes reasonable steps to avoid contact with the products of excluded methods as detailed in their approved organic system plan, the unintentional presence of the products of excluded methods should not affect the status of an organic product or operation.

 

Therefore, while the national organic standards provide significant discretion in establishing buffer zone dimensions, buffer zones should not be sized at distances which attempt to achieve a zero tolerance for prohibited substances. The intent of the regulations are to foster a collaborative effort between the certifying agents and their grower clients to determine an appropriate buffer zone with each party being fully cognizant of the process-based nature of the organic label claim.

 

Q:  Does the National Organic Program plan to provide any training or workshops at the producer/grower level?

 

A:  USDA does not envision conducting any training or workshops at the producer or handler level. USDA has entered into a cooperative agreement with the National Center for Appropriate Technology to provide compliance tools for organic agricultural producers and certifying agents.

 

Q:  How does the National Organic Program (NOP) envision that producers/growers can become familiar with the intricacies of this new regulation?

 

A:  Under the NOP, USDA provides oversight to accredited certifying agents. Certifying agents provide oversight to producers and handlers. Section 205.501(a)(8) requires that certifying agents provide sufficient information to persons seeking certification to enable them to comply with OFPA and national organic standards. USDA has entered into a cooperative agreement with the National Center for Appropriate Technology to provide compliance tools for organic agricultural producers and certifying agents.

 

Q:  Do nonagricultural substances included on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances have to be produced without the use of volatile synthetic solvents? My certifying agent says yes because of the prohibition on the use of volatile synthetic solvents found in section 205.270(c)(2).

 

A:  No. Section 205.270(c)(2) prohibits the use of a volatile synthetic solvent unless included on the National List as an allowed substance. However, synthetic solvents do not have to be on the National List to be allowed in the production of an allowed nonagricultural substance found on the National List. The use of volatile synthetic solvents in the production of allowed nonagricultural substances included on the National List is considered approved through the materials review process, unless otherwise stated through an annotation to the approved substance. (Example: § 205.605(a)(9), Flavors -- nonsynthetic sources only and must not be produced using synthetic solvents and carrier systems or any artificial preservative.)

Labels, Labeling, and Market Information

national orgainc program sealPosted 12/9/02
 

Q:  We are a company that makes bread using certified organic flour and other ingredients.  The yeast we use is grown and cultured using certified organic substrates, and the yeast producers follow the NOP regulations for production and processing.  Using this yeast, can we label our bread 100 percent organic?

 

A:  You do not say whether or not the yeast has been certified organic by a USDA-accredited certifying agent.  If the yeast is certified organic, and all the rest of the ingredients in your bread have been certified organic, you may label your bread as 100 percent organic.  If the yeast has not been certified, then your bread does not contain 100 percent organic ingredients.  Therefore, you may not label your bread as 100 percent organic.

 

Posted 11/12/02
 

Q:  I use flavorings in the manufacture of my organic agricultural products.  I have proof that these flavorings are from nonsynthetic sources, and are produced without the use of synthetic solvents, carriers, or artificial preservatives as required in section 205.605 (a) 9.   However, these flavorings do not come from a certified organic operation.  In which categories of organic agricultural products am I allowed to use these flavorings (100 percent organic; organic; made with (at least 70 percent) organic ingredients)?

 

A:  100 percent organic—No.  Products labeled 100 percent organic must contain 100 percent certified organic ingredients.

Organic—Yes.  As long as the flavorings constitute 5 percent or less of the total ingredients, and meet the requirements of section 205.605(a)(9).

Made with (at least 70 percent) organic ingredients—Yes.  As long as the flavorings meet the requirements of section 205.605(a)(9).

Posted 11/12/02
 

Q:  How are producers whose company names include the term “organic” affected by the NOP regulations?  For example, could a company selling organically produced vegetables call itself Blue Sky Organic? 

 

A:  The short answer is yes, as long as that company is not trying to mislead by using that name.  For a more thorough explanation, I refer you to a pertinent section of the Preamble to the NOP regulations below:

 

Labeling - Changes Requested But Not Made

(1) "Organic" in Company Names. Many commenters stated that the term, "organic," must not be used as part of a company name if the company does not market organically produced foods. They are concerned that the term in a company name would incorrectly imply that the product, itself, is organically produced.

While we understand commenter concerns, we do not know the extent of the problem. We do not believe those concerns require such a prohibition in the regulations at this time. These regulations may not be the best mechanism to address the issue. Section 6519(b) of the Act provides the Secretary with the authority to take action against misuse of the term, "organic." USDA will monitor use of the term, "organic," in company names and will work with the FTC to take action against such misuse of the term. These determinations must be made on a case-by-case basis.

 

Q: On what agricultural products can the USDA Organic Seal be displayed?

 

A:  The USDA Organic Seal may appear on organic agricultural products that are certified 100 percent organic or products that are certified as containing at least 95 percent organic ingredients.

 

Q: Is this seal in use now?

 

A: The seal may not be used until October 21, 2002.

 

Q: Are there any size, font, or color requirements placed on the use of the USDA Organic Seal? How can I get a copy?

 

A: Yes. The required specifications for the USDA Organic Seal can be found in the National Organic Program regulations, subpart D, Label, Labeling, and Market Information, section 205.311, which can be accessed at the NOP website: http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/NOP/standards.html.  A camera-ready copy of the seal is also available at http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/Consumers/Seal.html.

 

Q: I know the USDA Organic Seal cannot appear on any products before October 21, 2002. Does this prohibition also apply to advertising materials?

 

A: The USDA organic seal cannot appear on products or on any advertising materials, including, but not limited to signage or catalogs before October 21, 2002.

 

Q: We want to label our poultry "natural." Where in the National Organic Standards do we look for the labeling requirements for using this term?

 

A: Please note that "organic" is not synonymous with "natural." There is nothing in USDA’s National Organic Standards defining or regulating the use of the term "natural." USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regulates the term "natural" on meat and poultry labels.

Basically, FSIS defines "natural" in the following way: "A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed (a process which does not fundamentally alter the raw product) may be labeled natural. The label must explain the use of the term natural (such as--no added colorings or artificial ingredients; minimally processed). You will find this definition and many other labeling terms, including "free range" at the FSIS web site: www.fsis.usda.gov/oa/pubs/lablterm.htm. The FSIS labeling policy book, which goes into much greater technical detail can be accessed at: www.fsis.usda.gov/oppde/larc/policy%20book.pdf.

 

Q: As the manager of a retail store, I purchase bulk, certified organic product, then put it in bins where consumers scoop out the amount they want. What signs can I post regarding the organic status of the product?

 

A: You may provide the same information as provided on the original container or shipping documents, as described in the National Organic Standards, section 205.308. For example, "If the product is prepared in a certified facility, the retail display, labeling, and display containers may use: the USDA seal; and the seal, logo, or other identifying mark of the certifying agent …"

 

Q: In the produce area of my retail store, I display bulk product. I don’t want to confuse consumers by displaying several different certifier names, seals and logos. What signage options do I have?

 

A: For non-packaged organic agricultural products, a retail store may make the same claims as those on the shipping documents or container. The USDA Organic Seal, or the certifier’s logo, or both may be used for certified products. The only restriction is that the certifier’s logo may not be more prominently displayed than the USDA seal (see National Organic Standards, section 205.308). As an alternative, retail stores may simply refer to a product as "organic" and not use any seals or names of certifiers.

 

Q: I have a deli in my retail store that makes various multi-ingredient products, where 70-95 percent of the ingredients are certified organic. These products are packaged at the customer’s request, and the only thing we put on the package is price information. What organic claims can we make on the signs describing the products?

 

A: Your signs may indicate that the products you package are "made with (specified ingredients or food group(s))," as explained in the National Organic Standards, section 205.309. You may not list more than three ingredients/food groups. For example, you may sell chicken salad, with a sign that reads, "chicken salad made with organic chicken, celery, and grapes."

You may not represent the chicken salad as "certified organic," use the USDA Organic Seal, or the seal or name of any certifying agent (see section 205.310.)

 

Q: As a manager of a retail store, if I buy organic products from a small-scale organic producer who is exempt from certification, how can I label these products?

 

A: As explained in the National Organic Standards section 205.310, if you buy an organic product from an exempt operation, and you do not process this product any further, you may identify this product as "organic." For example, you could buy apples from an exempt producer and identify these apples to your customers as "organic." But—you may not identify these apples as being "certified organic," you may not display the USDA Organic Seal in conjunction with these apples, nor in any way represent these apples as certified organic.

If you further process these same apples, to make applesauce, for example, you may not identify the applesauce as being made with organic apples, or call it organic applesauce.

 

Q: Are there any restrictions on putting "place of origin" information on the label of an agricultural product that is certified organic; for example, "Organically Grown in Montana?"

 

A: No. The National Organic Standards do not prohibit the placement of truthful information on the labels of certified organic agricultural products.

 

Q.  Section 205.303(b)(2) states that I must identify the certifying agent, preceded by "Certified organic by * * *" or similar phrase, on the information panel below the name of the handler or distributor.  Can I meet this requirement by placing the name, acronym, logo, or seal of the certifying agent anywhere on the information panel?

 

A.  To meet the requirements of section 205.303(b)(2), the full name of the certifying agent must be placed on the information panel below the information identifying the handler or distributor.  Acronyms, logos, or seals may not be used to meet the requirements of section 205.303(b)(2).

 

Q.  Is there a rule for rounding when calculating the percentage of organically produced ingredients? 

 

A.  As provided in section 205.302(b) of the National Organic Standards, the percentage of all organically produced ingredients in an agricultural product must be rounded down to the nearest whole number.  For example, 69.99 percent would be rounded to 69 percent.

 

Q.  To meet the requirements of section 205.303(b)(2) and 205.304(b)(2), can a handler identify the name of the certifying agent of the finished product using the following statement: "Certified organic by (insert certifying agent's name here) in accordance with the organic standards of the U.S. Department of Agriculture?"

 

A.  Yes.

 

Q.   With respect to application of the USDA seal on packaging material, does the term “transparent” in section 205.311(b)(2) refer to the backgrounds of the upper half of the circle and the word “organic” prior to application on packaging material, or does it refer to the transparency of the packaging material on which the USDA seal has been applied? 

 

A.  The term “transparent” in section 205.311(b)(2) refers to the backgrounds of the upper half of the circle and the word “organic” prior to application on packaging material.  For example, if a certified organic handler of pasta chooses to apply the black and transparent version of the USDA seal on a brown shipping container, the brown color of the container may show through the transparent portions of the USDA seal. 

 

Q.   “As a certified handler can I make specific certification or production claims on the PDP such as Certified Organic,” “Grower Certified,” “Facility Certified,” “Product Certified,” “Organically Raised,” or “Organically Grown” in addition to or in place of “100 percent organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))”?”

 

A.  Certified operations are not prohibited from making truthful PDP label claims.  However, alternative labeling claims must not be used to misrepresent a product.  For example, alternative PDP label claims must not be constructed so as to mislead a consumer into thinking that a “made with” product was actually an “organic” product. 

 

Further, the NOP may, in the future, engage in rulemaking to limit the use of alternative PDP claims when it has determined that these alternative claims are being used to misrepresent the product.

 

Finally, exempt or excluded producers and handlers may not represent their operations as certified or use the term “certified” when labeling their product. 

 

Q:  How do I label my products until the NOP regulations are fully implemented on 
October 21, 2002?

 

A:  Until October 21, 2002, producers and handlers of organically produced agricultural products may continue their current labeling practices. All certified organic operations must discontinue the use of their current labeling practices and adhere to the labeling standards provided in subpart D, Labeling, of the Final Rule (October 20, 2002—old labeling practices allowed; October 21, 2002—old labeling practices not allowed).

 

Organic products that enter the chain of commerce before October 21, 2002 will not be in violation of NOP regulations. However, beginning October 21, 2002, all organic agricultural products that enter the chain of commerce must be labeled according to NOP regulations.

 

Q:  Who should approve my label before I go to print?

 

A:  Your certifying agent will review your label for compliance with NOP labeling requirements. Labels normally approved by a Federal agency such as FDA, FSIS, or BATF must be approved by those regulatory agencies.

 

Q:  Can I make label claims in addition to "organic" on my product?

 

A:  NOP regulations do not prohibit a producer or handler from making additional claims regarding their product as long as they are truthful and not misleading to the consumer. Such label claims may have to be approved by Federal agencies such as FDA, FSIS, or BATF.

 

Q:  Do I have to include the certifier's address on the information panel of my product's package?

 

A:  No.  You must identify the certifier's name on the information panel.  All other information related to your certifying agent is optional.

Q:  When does organic product have to be labeled "For Export Only"?

A:  A product must be labeled "For Export Only" when that product has been produced in the United States to an organic standard other than the National Organic Standards (NOS).

Q:  Can domestically produced organic product that meets the NOS and an international organic standard make a claim regarding the international standard on the PDP without violating the NOS? 

A:  Yes.  Truthful label claims are allowed under the NOS.

Certification

 

Posted 11/8/02
 

Q:   I am a certifying agent who has an application from a wool producer and processor.  How is wool production and processing addressed in the NOP regulations?

 

A:  Wool is considered an inedible fiber, along with cotton, flax, etc.  Inedible fibers are addressed in the Preamble to Final Rule as follows:

 

(6) Nonedible Fibers Products in the NOP. Some commenters asked the NOP to clarify the certification status of fibers such as cotton and flax. The final rule allows for certification of organically produced fibers such as cotton and flax. However, the processing of these fibers is not covered by the final rule. Therefore, goods that utilize organic fibers in their manufacture may only be labeled as a "made with..." product; e.g., a cotton shirt labeled "made with organic cotton."

 

In other words, the sheep must be certified organic in accordance with the NOP livestock standards, or the cotton, flax, etc., must be certified organic in accordance with the NOP crop standards to be identified as organic in a finished product.  Also, since processing is not covered in the final rule, there are no synthetic processing aids used in fiber processing on the National List.

 

Posted 10/18/02
 

Q:  I am an organic certifying agent in New England.  An organic maple syrup producer has applied to me for certification.  Should I require that the producer implement best management practices as recommended by the Vermont Cooperative Extension maple specialists; for example, requiring that the tree trunk reach a certain diameter before tapping, prohibiting the use of a vacuum system, or requiring that all health spouts be removed each year for proper healing of the tap-hole?

 

A:  The National Organic Program encourages all producers to employ best management practices as outlined by the authorities in that specific field of agriculture, as long as they are not prohibited by the National Organic Program regulations.  There is nothing in the NOP regulations that would prohibit any practice that you’ve listed in your question. 

 

Posted 10/16/02
 

Q:  A processing facility contracts with two farms for their production.  Is it possible to certify those two farms under the name of the processing facility if they are contracted to produce only for that facility? 

 

A:  Yes.  Production operations that are contracted to supply only a specific processing/handling facility can be certified as part of that unit.  They must be included in the certified operation’s organic systems handling plan and be inspected by the certifying agent. 

 

Posted 10/16/02
 

Q:  If a certified operation uses a warehouse or storage facility to store organic product must the warehouse be certified, too? 

 

A:  No.  However, the warehouse/storage facility must be included in the certified operation’s organic systems plan so that the certifying agent is aware of where the product is being stored and can verify that the facility is compliant with any applicable standards; for example, prevention of commingling and contact with prohibited substances, as outlined in Section 205.101 (b)(1). 

 

Posted 10/16/02
 

Q:  I am applying for organic certification of my farm.  However, I used a substance during the 2002 growing season that had been on the OMRI list of approved substances, but is not allowed by the National Organic Program.  Can I still be certified, assuming I meet all the requirements of the National Organic Program? 

 

A:  Yes.  Since the substance had previously been accepted as part of good organic farming practices and you used it in good faith, the status of your land and your eligibility for certification is not affected.  

 

Posted 10/16/02
 

Q:  Does a feed mill producing a feed supplement that will be mixed with feed to be fed to cows at an organic dairy need to be certified? 

 

A:  No.  As discussed in the Preamble, “Livestock Production—Changes Based on Comments (4)” a natural feed additive [supplement] can be from any source, provided it is not classified as a prohibited substance on the National List, and must be in compliance with the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.  

 

However, if the feed mill is also producing feed to be used in organic livestock production, the mill must be certified.

Q.
  Can an accredited certifying agent include an expiration date or renewal date on a certificate of organic operation?

 

A.  No.  Section 205.404(c) provides that once certified, a production or handling operation’s organic certification continues in effect until surrendered by the organic operation or suspended or revoked by the certifying agent, the State organic program’s governing State official, or the Administrator.  Accordingly, the NOP prohibits any language on the certificate of organic operation that indicates an expiration or renewal date. 

 

In order to minimize confusion, NOP encourages all accredited certifying agents to prominently display the phrase, “Certification good until surrendered, suspended, or revoked.” on the certificate of organic operation.

 

Q:  Will organic producers and handlers apply to the USDA to be certified?

 

A:  No. Producers and handlers will apply directly to the USDA-accredited certifying agent of their choice for certification (see section 205.401 of the NOP regulations).

 

Q:  How long is my Organic Certificate good for?

 

A:  Your organic certificate remains good until you voluntarily surrender your certification or your certification is suspended or revoked by the certifying agent, the State Organic Program's governing State official, or the Administrator for violation of the Act or NOP regulations. The certifying agent will issue an updated certificate of organic operation as needed.

 

Q:  How, and in what ways, do the national organic standards differ from the organic certification requirements for international trade, such as the European Union standards?

 

A:  The USDA national organic standards should be considered in two segments: (1) the verification system that includes certification of organic agricultural products and accreditation of certifying agents and (2) the production, handling and labeling standards under which organic agricultural products are produced and sold. NOP is consistent with the internationally accepted guidelines for certification and accreditation, International Standardization Organization Guides 65 and 61, respectively. However, NOP requirements for production, handling, labeling and allowed and prohibited materials differ significantly from those of other countries, such as the European Union (EU), particularly in livestock production standards.

 

Q:  If U.S. national organic standards differ from foreign organic standards, such as the EU, are there plans to standardize the regulations?

 

A:  No. The NOP, in conjunction with the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service and the U.S. Trade Representative, has begun to establish a process through which equivalency or other trade agreements can be negotiated with governments of foreign countries to which U.S. organic products are exported.

 

Q:  Is it possible for producers/growers to meet the U.S. national organic standards and foreign organic standards?

 

A:  Section 205.300(b) allows for production and export of products produced in the U.S. and certified to foreign national organic standards or foreign contractor buyer requirements. Such products may be labeled in accordance with the organic labeling of the receiving country or contract buyer. Such products must be exported. The shipping containers and shipping documents must meet the labeling requirements of section 205.307(c), including the requirement that such containers and documents be clearly marked "For Export Only." For further information see section 205.307(c).

Accreditation of Certifying Agents

 

Posted 1/2/03
 

The National Organic Program (NOP) has been asked a number of questions regarding how to fulfill the requirement of section 205.501(a)(15)(ii) of the National Organic Standards (NOS) that states certifying agents must submit to the Administrator a copy of a list, on January 2 of each year, including the name, address, and telephone number of each operation granted certification during the preceding year.  Based on the questions asked by certifying agents, the NOP provides the following responses to clarify section 205.501(a)(15)(ii):

 

Q:  Does the NOP favor a method of transmission for the lists (i.e. fax, e-mail, US mail,
FedEx, or a combination of these)?

 

A:  NOP prefers to receive the lists via e-mail at Arthur.Neal@usda.gov  

 

Q:  Is there a particular format preferred by the NOP for the lists? (Word document, Excel spreadsheet, data base listing, etc.)?

 

A:  When submitting lists via email, NOP prefers to receive them in Excel Spreadsheet format.

 

Q:  Does the NOP want the mailing address for the operators, or the physical location of the operation?

 

A:  NOP requires both addresses, if applicable.

 

Q:  The NOS requires that the lists should show the operations "granted certification during the preceding year". Should the lists only contain new operations granted certification, or all operations, including certification renewals?

 

A:  Because this is the initial year for full implementation of the NOS, the NOP requires a complete list of all organic operations certified by the certifying agent as of midnight, December 31, 2002.  This would include all operations going through an annual update.

 

Q:  The NOS only asks for the name, address, and telephone number of the operations. Does the NOP also want the categories for which the operations are certified?

 

A:  The NOS does not require identification of the categories for which the operations are certified.  However, NOP encourages the submission of this information.  Such information will be valuable in identifying the size, scope, and characteristics of the organic production and handling industry.

 

Q:  The NOS requires that the lists be submitted "on" January 2.  Can the lists be submitted "on or before" January 2?

 

A:  Yes, the lists may be submitted “on or before” January 2; provided they are complete through the end of the calendar year.

 

Q: How will a National Organic Program audit of a certifying agent be conducted?

 

A: The National Organic Program only conducts site evaluations and on-site review audits of certifying agents. Auditors conducting the reviews will follow the procedures specified in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 10011 guidelines, "Guidelines for Auditing Quality Systems." Accredited certifying agents will be reviewed based on their ability to comply with the national standards.

December 31, 2002

 

Q: Please discuss fees associated with audits.

 

A: Through October 21, 2002, applicants seeking initial accreditation under the National Organic Program (NOP) will only be assessed travel expenses. The NOP will absorb all labor charges for accreditation services through October 21, 2002. After October 21, 2002, applicants for initial accreditation and renewal of accreditation will be assessed fees in accordance to sections 205.640 and 205.641 of subpart G, Fees. Fees for certification are assessed by the certifying agent. Such fees must be in compliance with section 205.642 of the national standards.

 

Q: Does the National Organic Program (NOP) have plans to produce a national list of accredited certifying agents?

 

A:  Yes. The first announcement of accredited certifying agents will not occur until on or about April 21, 2002. At this time, the NOP will provide a list of accredited certifying agents which will be accessible on the NOP website at http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/CertifyingAgents/Accredited.html or by request through the NOP office at 1400 Independence Avenue, SW; Room 2510 South Building; Washington, D.C.; 20250.

 

Q:  As a result of the conflict of interest provisions in the national standards, what mechanisms, if any, are there for certifying agents to provide compliance information?

 

A:  Section 205.501(a)(8) requires that certifying agents provide applicants with sufficient information to enable them to comply with the OFPA and regulations. Section 205.501(a)(11)(iv) prohibits certifying agents from giving advice or providing consultancy services to certification applicants or certified operations for the purpose of overcoming barriers to certification. In other words, certifying agents must explain the regulations, but they cannot tell producers or handlers how to correct a noncompliance. Additional discussion of this issue may be found on page 80601 of the national standards.

 

Q:  Based on the conflict of interest provisions in the national standards, how does National Organic Program envision the producer obtaining the correct information to achieve compliance?

 

A:  To address barriers to certification and other organic issues particular to the geographical area, certifying agents may sponsor in-house publications, conferences, workshops, informational meetings, field days, or other educational activities for which participation is voluntary and open to the general public. To overcome barriers to certification, producers and handlers may seek out consultancy services from sources such as educational institutions, State cooperative extension, private consultants, and other producers and handlers.

National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances

 

Q:  Do nonagricultural substances included on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances have to be produced without the use of volatile synthetic solvents? My certifying agent says yes because of the prohibition on the use of volatile synthetic solvents found in section 205.270(c)(2).

 

A:  No. Section 205.270(c)(2) prohibits the use of a volatile synthetic solvent unless included on the National List as an allowed substance. However, synthetic solvents do not have to be on the National List to be allowed in the production of an allowed nonagricultural substance found on the National List. The use of volatile synthetic solvents in the production of allowed nonagricultural substances included on the National List is considered approved through the materials review process, unless otherwise stated through an annotation to the approved substance. (Example: § 205.605(a)(9), Flavors -- nonsynthetic sources only and must not be produced using synthetic solvents and carrier systems or any artificial preservative.)

 

Use of Chlorine in Organic Handling Operations - 7 C.F.R 205.601(a)(2), 205.603(a)(3), and 205.605(b)(9) provides for the use of chlorine materials as algicides, disinfectants and sanitizers in organic crop, livestock and handling operations.  The annotation on the use of chlorine materials restricts the residual chlorine levels in the water to the maximum residual disinfectant limit under the Safe Drinking Water Act.  This limit is currently established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at 4 mg/L for chlorine.  The National Organic Program has received a number of questions regarding the use of chlorine in certified operations and the sampling protocol to be used by accredited certifying agents (ACA) in monitoring the maximum residual disinfectant limit for chlorine materials.  The following Q and A’s are designed to clarify these issues.

 

Q.  As an ACA, at what point in crop, livestock or handling operations should I monitor for the maximum residual disinfectant limit?

 

A.  ACA’s must monitor the discharge or effluent point to ensure that certified operators are meeting the 4 mg/L limit as set forth by the Safe Drinking Water Act. 

 

Q.  As a crop, livestock or handling operation, am I restricted to use chlorine at the maximum residual disinfectant limit specified under the Safe Drinking Water Act, currently 4 mg/L, at the beginning of the wash/rinse water cycle?

 

A.  No.  Levels of chlorine used to prepare water to be used to disinfect/sanitize tools, equipment, product or food contact surfaces may be higher than 4 mg/L and should be at levels sufficient to control microbial contaminants.  Therefore, chlorine use at the beginning of the applicable water cycle in an organic operation is not limited to 4 mg/L. 

 

Q:  Can nonagricultural substances not appearing on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances be used as ingredients in or on a product labeled as "made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s)).?"

 

A:  A "made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))" product must, in accordance with section 205.105(c) of the Final Rule, be produced and handled without the use of nonagricultural substances used in or on processed products, except when the nonagricultural substances are included in section 205.605 of the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. Accordingly, the reference to nonorganic ingredients in section 205.301(c) refers to agricultural ingredients only and should not be construed to include nonagricultural ingredients. 

 

To further clarify the Department’s intent, a "made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))" product must contain at least 70 percent organic agricultural ingredients that have been produced without the use of:

1.  Synthetic substances unless the substances and their use are allowed under section 205.601 or section 205.603 of the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.

2.  Nonsynthetic substances prohibited under section 205.602 or section 205.604 of the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.

3.  Nonagricultural substances unless the substances are allowed under section 205.605 of the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.

Additionally, the remainder of the ingredients in a "made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))" product (up to 30 percent) may include:

1.  Nonagricultural products listed in section 205.605 of the National List.

2.  Nonorganically produced agricultural products, raw or processed, that have been produced using synthetic, nonsynthetic, and nonagricultural substances without regard to sections 205.601 through 205.605 of the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, except that the use of excluded methods, sewage sludge, and ionizing radiation are prohibited. Nonorganically produced agricultural products listed in section 205.606 of the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances must comply with the restrictions placed on that product by section 205.606.

Q: Will there be a generic list of allowed naturals?

 

A:  No, there will not be a generic list of allowed natural materials, because all naturals are allowed unless prohibited on the National List.

 

Q.  What is the “maximum residual disinfectant level?”

 

A.  “Maximum residual disinfectant level” is a term defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the highest level of a disinfectant allowed in drinking water.  This level is currently established by EPA at 4 mg/L for chlorine.  Practically applied under the National Organic Standards, the term “maximum residual disinfectant level” refers to the chlorine level of the waste water at the discharge or effluent point.

State Organic Programs

 

Q:  Can a State request review of a proposed State Organic Program (SOP) before all the statutory and regulatory rules have been changed? For instance, can a State specify its intent to adopt legislation or rules in its request for approval, rather than having those statutes or rules finalized?

A: 
A State has two options: (1) It can submit a final SOP to USDA for approval; or (2) It may submit to USDA, a draft SOP for review prior to finalization of statutes, regulations, or procedures. When this option is used, USDA will provide feedback to the State regarding any changes necessary to receive approval. A State can then use the feedback to finalize its SOP. The SOP would, then, be submitted to USDA for approval.

Q:  Can a State require registration of all certifying agents operating within the State?

A: 
Yes; provided that the registration program does not discriminate against the certifying agents.

Q:  Can a State with an approved State Organic Program (SOP) review the operations of certifying agents operating within the State?

A: 
Only States with approved SOPs may review and investigate complaints of noncompliance with the Act or regulations concerning accreditation of certifying agents operating in the State (See section 205.668(c)).

Q:  Can a State require certifying agents operating within the State to comply with the approved State Organic Program’s (SOP’s) more restrictive requirements?

A: 
Accredited certifying agents operating within a State with an approved SOP must comply with the SOP’s more restrictive requirements. A violation of the State’s approved more restrictive requirements is a violation of the National Organic Standards (NOS). Only the USDA may take enforcement action against an accredited certifying agent for violating the NOS. States with approved SOPs may review and investigate complaints of noncompliance and report their findings to the NOP for enforcement action (See section 205.668(c)).

Q:  When is a State considered to have a State Organic Program (SOP)?

 

A:  A State is considered to have an SOP when it receives USDA approval. To receive approval, a proposed SOP must meet the National Organic Standards, receive approval for any identified more restrictive requirements, and contain noncompliance, mediation, and appeals procedures that meet the requirements of USDA. The basis for the recommendation to approve or disapprove will be based on compliance with the requirements of Sections 205.620 through 205.622, 205.661 through 205.663, 205.668, and 205.680 and 205.681 of the NOS (7 CFR 205.620-.622, 205.661-.663, 205.668, and 205.680-.681).

Q:  Who is responsible for handling a U.S. District Court appeal of a State’s final decision?

A:  The appeal is on a State action, and the State is responsible for defending its action.

Q:  What discretion, if any, does a State Organic Program (SOP) have in handling an appeal of an enforcement action initiated by an accredited certifying agent?

A: 
None. Approved SOPs are required to handle all appeals of enforcement actions initiated by certifying agents against certified operations operating within the State.

Q:  Can a State Organic Program (SOP) include additional enforcement provisions, such as authority to issue cease and desist orders, obtain injunctions to stop the sale of noncompliant products, or summarily suspend certifications?

A: 
A State may request approval of an SOP that includes more restrictive enforcement requirements that do not deny due process.

 

Q:  Will an approved State Organic Program (SOP) be responsible for revoking the certification of a certified operation based in foreign countries?

A: 
When a certified entity operates in multiple locations and one of those locations is within the jurisdiction of an SOP, the State is responsible for enforcing compliance by that portion of the certified operation.

Q:  If a certified producer or handler fails to meet the continuation of certification requirements and contests a proposed revocation of certification, can a State with a State Organic Program (SOP) stop that entity from selling its product as "organic" prior to completion of the appeals process?

A: 
A stop sale before completion of the appeals process would be a denial of due process.

 

Q: Is it possible for organic growers to be in compliance with the National Organic Program if their State does not create a State Organic Program.

 

A: Yes. A State does not have to create a State Organic Program or become an accredited certifying agent for organic growers within the State to be in compliance with the requirements of the National Organic Program.

 

Q:  Please explain the options available to a State considering the possibility of creating a State Organic Program (SOP) under the National Organic Program (NOP).

 

A:  Option 1: A State may choose not to establish an SOP or provide certification services under the NOP. Under this option, organic growers may seek organic certification by any certifying agent accredited under the NOP. The State would not be responsibly connected to enforcement of the NOP. Enforcement would be shared jointly by the NOP and the certifying agent.

 

Option 2: A State may choose to only provide certification services under the NOP. Under this option, the State would have to apply for accreditation. As an accredited certifying agent, the State would be responsible for conducting certifications, enforcing the production and handling standards of the NOP, and maintaining compliance with other applicable NOP regulations. USDA will be responsible for oversight of the State certifying agent. Organic producers and handlers within that State could choose to be certified by the State or any other accredited certifying agent.

 

Option 3: A State may choose to establish an SOP. Under this option, all organic producers or handlers in the State would have to be certified according to the SOP, which would include the requirements of the NOP and the more restrictive provisions unique to that State and approved by the USDA. The State would assume enforcement responsibility, within its borders, for the requirements in the national standards and its SOP (§205.620(d)). However, the State may not initiate proceedings to suspend or revoke the accreditation of any certifying agent accredited by USDA. Suspension or revocation of an accredited certifying agent may only be pursued by the USDA. Organic producers and handlers may seek and obtain organic certification from any certifying agent accredited under the NOP.

 

Option 4: A State may choose a combination of Options 2 and 3.

Exporting Organic Products

 

Q:    When does organic product have to be labeled "For Export Only"?

A:    A product must be labeled "For Export Only" when that product has been produced in the United States to an organic standard other than the National Organic Standards (NOS).

Q:    Can domestically produced organic product that meets the NOS and an international organic standard make a claim regarding the international standard on the PDP without violating the NOS?

A:    Yes.  Truthful label claims are allowed under the NOS.

 

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