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USDA National Organic Program Certification

USDA National Organic Program Certification

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National Organic Program

Certification is the key to the National Organic Program. It assures that organic growers and handlers are, in fact, adhering to the law. Since October 21, 2002, it is a federal offense to label any food product as "organic" unless it has been certified. All uses of the labeling term "organic" for food are regulated.

The certification process focuses on the methods and materials used in production. There are three main requirements:

1. the methods and materials used in production must meet organic standards

2. there must be clear and ongoing documentation of these methods and materials

3. there must be a paper trail tracing a product back to its production site, in order to verify the methods and materials used in its production.

Who must be certified?

With two exceptions, everyone selling products labeled as "organic" must be certified. This includes producers of organic livestock, food, and fiber crops, and "handlers" of organic products. A "handler" is any operation that "receives, processes, packages, or stores agricultural products."

Accreditation of certifying agents

Now that the federal rule has been implemented, only USDA-accredited agencies may act as certifiers. Certifying agencies may be either state or private, but they must have expertise in organic farming and handling techniques. They must be able to fully implement all aspects of the certification program, including hiring an adequate number of inspectors to carry out on-site inspections.

CONTACT:
National Organic Program

Organic Trade Association

Organic Trade Association (OTA) is a membership-based business association that focuses on the organic business community in North America. OTA's mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy.

Organic Trade Association
PO Box 547, Greenfield MA 01302
Shipping: 60 Wells Street, Greenfield MA 01301
Phone: 1-413-774-7511
Fax: 1-413-774-6432
General inquires: info@ota.com
www.ota.com

Edited by Carolyn Allen
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