USDA publishes first-ever National Organic Program handbook

USDA publishes first-ever National Organic Program handbook

By Stewart Doan

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



Washington, Sept. 2 - USDA Thursday published the first edition of a program handbook designed for those who own, manage, or certify organic operations. Prepared by the National Organic Program (NOP), the handbook provides guidance about the national organic standards and instructions that outline best program practices. It is intended to serve as a resource for the organic industry that will help participants comply with federal regulations.

“The handbook will provide guidance to the organic agricultural community to enable them to carry out production and handling processes in a consistent manner,” said Miles McEvoy, NOP deputy administrator. “It will also reduce the burden on industry participants as they work to comply or verify compliance with the NOP regulations.”

First proposed as a “program manual” a decade ago and more recently addressed in the March 2010 USDA Office of Inspector General audit report of the NOP, the publication of the program handbook marks an important step in NOP's efforts to ensure consistency in the application of NOP regulations, USDA said.

The inaugural edition of the handbook provides guidance on the allowance of green waste in organic production systems, approval of liquid fertilizers in organic production, certification of organic yeast, processed animal manures in organic crop production, reassessed inert ingredients, and the calculation of dry matter intake for NOP's access to pasture requirements.

It also includes instructions concerning organic certification, such as recordkeeping, steps to certification, and organic certificates; accreditation procedures, such as how to apply to become an accredited certifying agent; international procedures, such as how USDA determines equivalence of foreign organic standards to those of the NOP; compliance and enforcement measures, such as how to handle complaints; and appeals procedures for certified operations or accredited agents.

To access the handbook, go to: www.ams.usda.gov/NOPProgramHandbook

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