- The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) [and National Organic Program] is pleased to announce final guidance for handling unpackaged organic products.
This guidance implements a recommendation from the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and responds to findings from the Office of Inspector General.
Additionally, you can now access a variety of conservation guides and webinars tailored for organic operations.
Handling Unpackaged Organic Products
In an October 2010 recommendation, the NOSB expressed concern that certain products were moving through unregulated segments of the marketing chain.
The NOSB noted that uncertified brokers, distributors, and traders lack the regular oversight of accredited certifying agents and the National Organic Program (NOP), opening the door for conventional products to be mislabeled as organic.
After reviewing public comments, NOP has clarified certification requirements for operations handling unpackaged organic products. If an operation:
- Only handles organic products that are enclosed and remain in the same container without being processed or relabeled, the operation doesn't need to be certified organic.
- Transports unpackaged organic products but doesn't handle them, the operation doesn't need to be certified. Certified organic producers and handlers must maintain records and ensure organic integrity throughout transport.
- Handles unpackaged organic products, it must be certified organic.
- View NOP 5031: Handling Unpackaged Organic Products
View NOP 5031-1: Response to Comments
Get Certified Organic
The NOP will cover this and other topics at its annual organic certifier training in February 2014.
Organic Conservation Resources
USDA's Environmental Quality Incentives Program provides financial payments and technical support to producers for implementing conservation practices such as conservation buffers, cover crops, and pest management strategies. By setting aside funding specifically for organic agriculture, this program helps organic farmers and ranchers meet requirements in the USDA organic regulations related to natural resources conservation and biodiversity.
New USDA-funded guides and planned intensive trainings on the following topics will help USDA staff, agricultural professionals, and interested producers better understand natural resource management on organic operations:
- Nutrient management budgeting
- Pest management techniques
- Cover crop selection and application
- Conservation buffer design and maintenance
Funded by a grant from the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, this project is the result of a partnership between:
- USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service
- Oregon Tilth's Organic Conservation Program
- The National Center for Appropriate Technology
- The Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides
- The Xerces Society
Additionally, join a webinar on a variety of organic and sustainable agriculture topics!
View Scheduled Webinars
Hosted by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service & Oregon Tilth
ICS recently issued a brief document clarifying what type of changes to a certified operation's OSP require certifier notification and/or OSP document update, and when such updates/notifications should be submitted. Today the NOP published Instruction 2615, which supports and further details the information provided in that memo. Please see attached and at the "NOP 2615" link below.
USDA shares several updates to the National Organic Program Handbook.
The National Organic Program (NOP) Handbook provides a wide variety of policy materials and other resources to help organic farms and businesses comply with the USDA organic regulations.
AMS has recently added and updated several Handbook resources:
Learn More: Sound and Sensible Initiative
View Full Handbook
The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has sent two memos to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) related to substances in organic production and handling.
Memos to NOSB
AMS published memos to the NOSB on the following topics:
Organic personal care products that are comprised of agricultural ingredients and meet the USDA organic regulations remain eligible for certification. Personal care product manufacturers can use substances on the processed product sections of the National List (such as non-organic colors when organic colors aren't commercially available).
USDA Conservation Program Deadline
Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
Application deadline: January 17, 2014
CSP rewards farmers and ranchers for current conservation practices and for implementing additional enhancements over a 5-year contract period. It provides funding to help operations improve the condition of their soil, water, and wildlife habitat.
USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) wants to clarify that an online directory of organic operations,www.usdaorganicfarms.com, is not affiliated with USDA.
Clarification: Organic Certification Directory
Several organic operations and USDA-accredited organic certifiers have asked if www.usdaorganicfarms.com is an official USDA effort. This effort is a commercial Web site that, for a fee, lists certified organic operations.
After its launch several months ago, AMS staff proactively contacted the developer to explain the organic certification process and confirm that the developer was verifying the certification status of organic farms and businesses listed on the site.
More recently, we have asked the developer to change his materials to make it clear that this site is not affiliated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture or any other Federal entity.
Any organic operation's participation in this effort is voluntary and won't have any effect on its organic certification status. AMS continues to maintain the official list of certified organic operations, which will be updated in early 2014.
Many for-profit services, such as real estate listings and weather smartphone applications, are based on Federal data sources. AMS is confident that similar technological innovations could support the growing organic sector, but must not be represented as a Federal resource.
Official Public List of Certified Organic Operations
Overview: List of Certified Operations
Value Added Producer Grants
Yesterday, Secretary Vilsack announced the availability of nearly $10.5 million in USDA grants to help agricultural producers enter into value-added activities designed to give them a competitive business edge.
Grants are available to help agricultural producers create new products, expand marketing opportunities, support further processing of existing products or goods, or to develop specialty and niche products.
They may be used for working capital and planning activities. The maximum working capital grant is $200,000; the maximum planning grant is $75,000.
Eligible applicants include independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, and agricultural producer groups. Funding priority is given to socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers or ranchers, and to small- to medium-size family farms, or farmer/rancher cooperatives.
USDA is funding these efforts through its Value-Added Producer Grant program. Since 2009, the Obama Administration has provided agricultural producers with almost $80 million in Value Added Producer Grant assistance that has supported more than 600 innovative, value-added projects.
Learn More + Apply
Deadline: February 24, 2014
Alerts & News
Information for certified and transitional growers and businesses.