USDA Organic

Organic Standards  
usa organic certificationThe organic standards describe the specific requirements that must be verified by a USDA-accredited certifying agent before products can be labeled USDA organic. Overall, organic operations must demonstrate that they are protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity, and using only approved substances. A brief summary is provided below.
Organic crops. The USDA organic seal verifies that irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, and genetically modified organisms were not used.Organic livestock. The USDA organic seal verifies that producers met animal health and welfare standards, did not use antibiotics or growth hormones, used 100% organic feed, and provided animals with access to the outdoors.Organic multi-ingredient foods. The USDA organic seal verifies that the product has 95% or more certified organic content. If the label claims that it was made with specified organic ingredients, you can be sure that those specific ingredients are certified organic.Regulatory Process

The NOP develops the laws that regulate the creation, production, handling, labeling, trade, and enforcement of all USDA organic products. This process, commonly referred to as rulemaking, involves input from the National Organic Standards Board (a Federal Advisory Committee made up of fifteen members of the public) and the public. Learn more.

Regulatory References

USDA organic regulations. 7 CFR Section 205 includes all USDA organic standards, including prohibited practices, requirements, and the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Materials.

Program Handbook. This compilation of guidance documents, policy memos, and instructions is intended to clarify policies and assist those who own, manage, or certify organic operations with complying with NOP regulations.

Draft Guidance. To increase their quality and transparency, the NOP first publishes guidance documents in draft form with request for public comments.

Practice Standards. Specific guidelines and requirements that organic producers and handlers must address in their organic system plan. This page provides information on practice standards that have been recently published or are currently in development.

Periodic Residue Testing. Beginning January 1, 2013 organic certifying agents must test samples from at least 5 percent of the operations they certify on an annual basis. The following resources help certifying agents comply with these additional residue testing requirements:

Final Rule | Proposed Rule, outlines requirements

Memo to Certifying Agents, summarizes requirements

Pilot Pesticide Report, provides validated testing model

NOP 2610, describes how samples should be collected

NOP 2611, describes laboratory requirements

NOP 2611-1, provides target list of prohibited pesticides (PDFs)

NOP 2613, clarifies how to respond to positive residues


Determine EPA Tolerance | Determine FDA Action Level

Use of the USDA Organic Seal. This page discusses the appropriate use of the USDA organic seal and provides versions of the seal at both print and screen resolution.

Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. The Act that established the NOP and its authority to enforce agricultural products sold, labeled, or represented as “organic” within the U.S.

Preamble. If you are interested in the history of the NOP standards, you may want to review the preamble to the final rule, which established the National Organic Program.

Other Regulatory References