Overview of Organic Agriculture
The Organic Foods Production Act
The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA) is a law that regulates the production, processing, handling, packaging, and labeling of organic agricultural products in the United States. The OFPA establishes clear, national standards for organic agriculture and aids consumers by requiring simpler, standardized labeling of organic products. It also protects consumers and legitimate organic producers by setting fines and punishments for producers and marketers that make false or misleading claims about organic agricultural products. Generally, organic products do not contain ingredients produced with the use of synthetic fertilizers, synthetic pesticides, or other chemicals. The OFPA and subsequent regulations require that all organic producers and handlers be certified under the standards set forth under the OFPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Once organic producers and handlers have been certified, they may produce and market agricultural goods as “organic,” if the good meets all organic production and handling requirements. The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) mandated creation of a National Organic Program (NOP) and a National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The National Organic Program (NOP) develops the rules and regulations for the production, handling, labeling, and enforcement of all USDA organic products. The NOSB is the federal body responsible for writing, interpreting and enforcing the Organic Regulations, which are the National Organic Standards (NOS).
National Organic Program
The National Organic Program (NOP), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has regulatory oversight responsibilities for the USDA organic standards and the accreditation of organic certifying agents.
National Organic Standards Board
The National Organic Program (NOP), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has regulatory oversight responsibilities for the USDA organic standards and the accreditation of organic certifying agents. The NOP also has authority to take appropriate legal action to enforce the organic standards and thus protect the integrity of the USDA organic standards, from farm to market, around the world.
National Organic Standards
The National Organic Standards (NOS) were developed by the USDA to implement the OFPA. The NOS are based on recommendations of the NOSB. The final rule contains the National Organic Standards, complete with an extensive list of definitions and the “National List” of allowed synthetic and prohibited natural substances. It also contains labeling, certification, accreditation, enforcement, and testing requirements. Under the regulation, any agricultural product can be produced using organic methods.
Sections 6504, 6510, 6517, and 6518 of the OFPA provide the Secretary with the authority to develop the National List. The contents of the National List are based upon a Proposed National List, with annotations, as recommended to the Secretary by the NOSB. The National List identifies synthetic substances that are allowed in organic production and non-synthetic substances that are prohibited in organic crop production.
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