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Session 2 - Market Access Issues: Standards and Regulations

USDA's National Organic Rule


James Riddle, Director, Program Development, National Organic Program, United States Department of Agriculture, United States of America

The Basis for National Standards

NOP Implementation

What Makes Organic Organic?

• Application of Consistent Production and Handling Standards.

• Development of a Mandatory Production and/or Handling Plan.

- Similar but not identical to an HACCP plan

• Use of only Approved Substances

• Mandatory Verification through On-Site Inspections.

Not a Food Safety Claim

Three PDP Labelling Categories

• “100 percent Organic” (may use USDA seal)

- Just that, including all processing aids.

• “Organic” *(may use USDA seal)

- At least 95 percent organic ingredients

- Remaining five percent must be on the “National List”.

• “Made with Organic (Ingredients)”

- From 95 percent to 70 percent of the ingredients must be organic.

• No GMOs, sewage sludge or irradiation allowed for any of these categories.

USDA's Role

• Accreditation of State and Private Certifier (domestic or foreign).

• Enforcement and Compliance.

• Promulgation of additional standards through recommendations of the NOSB

Recognition of a Foreign Certifier

• Accredited directly by NOP.

• Accredited by a foreign government to same standards as NOP Final Rule.

• Equivalency agreement between the United States and foreign government.

• “Re-certification” by an NOP accredited certifying agent.

NOP Audit

• Producer/audits/inspections will be conducted by accredited certifying agents according to the provisions specified in subpart E, Certification.

• During accreditation visits, NOP auditors will follow procedures specified in ISO 10011 Guidelines “Guidelines for Auditing Quality Systems”. Certifiers must follow ISO 65, as specified in Subpart F, Accreditation.

• Until October 21, 2002, accreditation applicants only assessed travel expenses.

• After October 21, 2002, applicants assessed according to sections 205.640 and 205.641 of Final Rule.

NOP Basic Requirements

• Organic System Plan.

• Mandatory Record keeping.

• Monitoring of management practices.

• Physical barriers to prevent commingling and contamination.

• Land must be free of prohibited materials for three years (36 months) prior to harvest.

• Land must have distinct, defined boundaries.

• Must maintain or improve the physical, chemical and biological condition of the soil and minimize soil erosion.

• Must implement soil building crop rotations.

• Fertility management must not contaminate crops, soil or water with plant nutrients, pathogen organisms, heavy metals or prohibited substances.

• Composted plant and animal materials are allowed.

• Uncomposted plant materials are allowed.

• Raw manure must be applied at least 120 days prior to harvest of crops for human consumption which may have contact with the soil (or at least 90 days for crops, which do not contact soil).

• Mined fertility inputs are allowed.

• All other fertility inputs must appear on the National List of Allowed Substances.

• Burning as a means of disposal of crop residues is prohibited (may only use burning to suppress disease or to stimulate food germination).

• Use of sewage sludge is prohibited.

• Must use organic seeds, if they are commercially available.

• May use untreated seeds if organic seeds are not commercially available.

• Must not use fungicide treated seeds.

• Must use organic seedlings for annual crops.

• May use conventional transplants for perennial crops, provided that they are managed organically for one year prior to harvest.

• May introduce natural predators or parasites for pest control.

• May develop habitat for beneficial species.

• May use non-synthetic controls, such as lures, traps and repellents.

• May apply non-synthetic biological, botanical or mineral inputs.

• For weed control - may mulch with natural materials; mow; graze livestock; hand weed; use mechanical cultivation; use flame, heat or electrical cultivators; or use plastic mulch, provided that they are removed from the field at the end of the growing season.

May apply non-synthetic biological, botanical or mineral inputs for weeds.

Must not use arsenate treated lumber for new installations or replacement purposes in contact with crops, soil or livestock.

For disease problems - may use management methods to prevent disease or suppress spread of disease; may apply non-synthetic biological, botanical or mineral inputs.

May only use non-synthetic biological, botanical or mineral inputs or substances on the National List for pest, weed or disease control when other practices are insufficient.

Residue Analysis

• Certifying agent may require pre- or post-harvest testing when there is reason to believe that organic products have come in contact with prohibited substances or GMOs.

• Residue levels must not exceed 5 percent of the United States Environmental Protection Agency's tolerance level for the specific substance.

• No tolerance levels yet established for GMO contamination.

USDA's Continuing Goal

• To ensure the development of organic standards that earn public confidence and provide organic producers with increased market opportunities.

For Further Information

• Contact NOP Webmaster (202) 720-3252; Email:

• NOP Website: <>

• James A. Riddle - Email:

• Independent Organic Inspectors Association: <>

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