The federal organic standards were developed to guarantee consumers that certified farms, processors and handlers have followed an organic system plan and are utilizing organic methods when growing or processing food. Standards ensure that no prohibited substances were applied to the land within the past three years, crop rotation and soil building plans were written and followed, detailed records were kept, fields or processes were inspected annually, and certification is kept current.
In order to streamline and standardize organic labeling in the United States, the federal government formulated national standards in 2002. Under the federal USDA National Organic Program (NOP) guidelines, farms selling more than $5000 worth of goods must be certified by an accredited certifying agent if they wish to label their products “organic”. While farms selling less than $5000 worth of goods are not required to be certified, they are still subject to inspection if they include the word “organic” on their labels. Producers and processors must be recertified every year.
Definitions of Organic
- What is Organic Food? – NCDA&CS
- The National Organic Program – Homepage
- USDA-AMS Frequently Asked Questions Concerning the National Organic Program
Organic Certification Process
- National Organic Program – Federal Rules for Organic
- National Organic Program Handbook – New September 2010
- Organic Certification Guide, Growing Small Farms
- Organic Certification Recordkeeping, Growing Small Farms
- Financial and Marketing Perspective on Organic Certification – ATTRA
- North Carolina Farmer Certification Assistance Program — See very bottom of page.
Accredited Organic Certifying Agents & Inspectors
- USDA Accredited Certifying Agents – National Organic Program
- International Organic Inspectors Association