United States of America (USA)

Mandatory Organic Standards and Labels

In the United States, Organic farming and food are regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (USDA NOP). The legislation authorizing the USDA NOP was the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. The scope of the regulation extends to food grown in the US and sold anywhere in the world as well as to food grown anywhere in the world and sold in the US. The Congress authorized the USDA to create a uniform standard that would override all private and state standards. The USDA has the authority to recognize other governmental programs as equivalent. It is not authorized to recognize private standards as equivalent.

The USDA National Organic Program is the sole competent authority and pre-empts all state and private certification bodies operating in the US. The USDA accredits and contracts with Accredited Certification Agents (ACAs) who implement the program. The ACAs are accredited by the USDA to implement the regulation.

USDA: Organic Regulations - Organic Foods Production Act of 1990
This website provided by the USDA gives an overview on Organic Regulations in the USA. Among others you can find a link to the Organic Foods Production Act.
The Organic Foods Production Act , Title 21 of the 1990 Farm Bill, Public Law 101-624, codified and amendments consolidated at 7 USC §6501 et seq. authorizes the USDA to set up rules for organic production in the USA. The Organic Foods Production Act can be found on the Organic Regulations page of the USDA
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United States Department of Agriculture National Organic Program (USDA NOP)
The United States Department of Agriculture National Organic Program was promulgated on December 22, 2000 and implemented on October 22, 2002. The regulations cover rules for the implementation of organic agriculture in the USA. The official current consolidated regulations are contained in 7 CFR 205.
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USDA: Organic Agriculture
Website of the US Department of Agriculture providing information on organic agriculture in the USA.
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Voluntary Organic Standards and Labels

There is a national organic label, the USDA Organic seal, which is very important for the US market. Its use is optional. Full compliance with the USDA labelling rules is required whenever a product is represented as organic in any way. Only products that meet the standards for “100% Organic” or “Organic” are permitted to use the USDA seal.

Accredited Certification Agents (ACAs) are permitted to have logos in addition to the USDA Organic seal, but they can’t imply that they are certifying to a different or higher standard, or that the product that they certify is superior to a product certified by other ACAs.

In the USA, there are only a very few local associations with private standards that distinguish themselves from the USDA NOP standards. Only the Demeter Association has members throughout the USA that are certified according to the Demeter Biodynamic Farm and Processing Standards. Their products can be labelled with the Demeter and Biodynamic certification marks.

USDA: information on organic labelling
Information on organic labelling and the USDA Organic seal provided by the Agricultural Marketing Service of the USDA.
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Demeter Association, Inc.
Website of Demeter USA with information on the association and its standards.
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Control Bodies

The control and certification process is performed by Accredited Certification Agents (ACAs) under contract to the USDA. These include state and local (county) government agencies, for-profit enterprises, and non-profit non-governmental organisations. Most are based in the US, but many are foreign owned and multi-national in their geographic scope.

The list of ACAs authorized to certify organic producers and handlers according to USDA NOP is provided by USDA (Organic Integrity Database).

Control Bodies in the USA
The Organic INTEGRITY Database provided by USDA covers the list of Accredited Certification Agents (ACAs) authorized to certify organic operators according to USDA NOP. The database is updated regularly and provides current information on accreditation, geographic areas served, and accredited scopes.
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Import Requirements

The procedure for the import of organic products into the United States of America depends on the country of origin.

For operators in countries of origin with recognition agreement, full compliance with the USDA NOP and certification by a certification body accredited by a recognized authority is sufficient.

For operators in countries or in regions with equivalency arrangements with the USDA NOP, compliance with the equivalent standards and certification by an USDA ACA or an equivalent accredited certification body is sufficient when accompanied by an NOP import certificate and attestation statement.

For operators in all other countries of origin that want to export organic products to the US, full compliance with the USDA NOP and certification by an Accredited Certification Agent (ACA) according to USDA NOP is required.

Specific requirements are valid for operators from Kazakhstan, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. It is recommended to contact the Accredited Certification Agents (ACAs) for further information.

USDA: International Trade Partners
Import requirements for international trade partners provided by the Accreditation and International Activities Division of the USDA.
Information on equivalence or recognition agreements with different countries can be retrieved as well as a memo on the requirements for importers in the USA and the NOP import certificate.
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USDA: Importing organic products to the U.S.
Leaflet provided by the Agricultural Marketing Service of the USDA summarizing the requirements for the import of organic products to the U.S.
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Further Information

General information on organic farming in the USA. 

Organic Trade Association
Website of the Organic Trade Association with comprehensive information on organic markets and international trade.
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USDA: Organic Agriculture
Website of the USDA providing information on organic agriculture in the USA.
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USDA: Organic Market Overview
Information on the US organic market provided by the Economic Research Service of the USDA.
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