usda organic standard


The National Organic Program

Scope: Food, Cotton, Flowers, Cosmetics, and Personal care.

Introduction: The USDA Organic Seal, founded by the National Organic Program (NOP) is by far the most well-recognized and established organic certification in the United States. The NOP was created in 1990 after congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) to ensure that agricultural products marketed as Organic would meet consistent and uniform standards. The main focus of the NOP is to regulate and certify agricultural products for food. However, the NOP also covers a wider range of products including textiles and personal care.

Principles: According to the National Organic Standards Board, "The principal guidelines for organic production are to use materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems and that integrate the parts of the farming system into an ecological whole." The word “organic”, in this context, is a labeling term used for products that are produced under the authority of the OFPA (Organic Foods Production Act)

Basics: The NOP’s organic standard regulates the production and handling of farm raised crops, wild harvested crops, and livestock management. Organically produced crops are grown without most conventional pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge-based fertilizers. Organically raised animals cannot be given hormones or antibiotics, and they must be fed organic feed and be given access to the outdoors. A certified organic product composed of a percentage of organically grown and processed ingredients. All products that are certified by the NOP must comply with a minimum criterion for production, handling, processing, labeling, and certification standards. The NOP has four categories of certification.

  1. 100% Organic A product must contain 100% organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt) and may prominently display the USDA organic seal and the percentage.
  2. Organic: A product must contain at least 95% organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt), the remaining percent must be organically grown if commercially available or consist of a non-agricultural substance that is on the USDA Organic approved ingredient list. The product may prominently display the USDA organic seal.
  3. Made with Organic Ingredients: A product must contain at least 70% organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt), and the products may not display the USDA Organic seal but may highlight up to three organic ingredients.
  4. Less than 70% Organic Ingredients: A product that contains organically grown ingredients but does not meet any of the first three standards may not use the term “Organic” unless specifically listing USDA certified organic ingredients on the back panel. The USDA organic seal may not be displayed.

The USDA accredits numerous independent organic certifiers across the country. A product that is USDA certified organic may be certified by any USDA accredited organic certifying program. All USDA certified organic products must display the name and address of the certifying agency in addition to the USDA organic seal. For more information on specific USDA accredited certifying programs see:

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Click here to read Badger’s stance on the USDA organic standard.