The USDA National Organic Program regulates all organic crops certified to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic standards. Organic certification agencies inspect and verify that organic farmers are complying with the USDA organic regulations. USDA conducts audits, investigations and enforcement activities to ensure all products labeled as organic meet the USDA organic regulations. In order to sell, label, or represent their products as organic, operations must follow all of the specifications set out by the USDA organic regulations.
Initial certification is a rigorous process requiring a detailed description of the operation, a complete history of substances applied to land, details of the organic products grown, raised, or processed, a full accounting of all Organic System Plans describing the practices and substances to be used. A site does not even qualify for certification unless it has been 3 years since any prohibited chemicals have been used on the land.
Any product in the United States that is labelled as “100% organic”, “organic”, or “made with organic ingredients”, must be certified. These standards are comprehensive and cover every aspect of organic farming, processing, transportation, labeling and packaging. The standards specifically preclude the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, antibiotics, growth hormones, sewage sludge, artificial fertilizers, GMOs and irradiation.
The USDA’s strict labeling rules are your guide to understanding the exact organic content of the food you buy. Only products that have at least 95 percent of their ingredients derived from organic production methods are permitted to use the USDA Organic seal.
More information on USDA Organics Certification and Labeling is available from the USDA site here.
Under the Organic Certification Program, TDA inspects and certifies organic farms as well as processors, distributors and retailers of organic food and fiber. To be certified, all must comply with organic growing and handling standards established by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP).
Certification for Organic requires three years without the use of prohibited materials, on-site inspection to verify compliance, residue testing, complete three-year history of agricultural use supported by documentation (affidavits from owner, FSA production records), three-year material use history (including allowed, restricted and prohibited materials), farm maps showing buffer zones from other cultivated agricultural land and prohibited material use. Testing results showing soil fertility and organic matter and water quality must be verified. There will be no use of genetic engineering, ionizing, radiation, and sewage sludge. Soil fertility will be managed through crop rotations and cover crops, supplemented with animal and crop waste materials. Crop pests, weeds and diseases will be controlled primarily through management practices.
Certified growers must maintain records of production practices, materials use, harvest dates, yields, product inventory and sales, and must be accessible to the department upon request. Growers must also submit farm plans including: Soil improvement, Water conservation, Current crop production plans, Weed control, Insect control, Disease control and plans for harvest, handling and storage of the crops.
The process is rigorous and extensive, but ensures that your organic food products are safely handled and accurately labeled.
More information on Texas Department of Agriculture Organics Certification is available here.