USDA Offers Policy Clarification: Updated Organic Program Handbook

AMS Press Release No. 014-11 (Soo Kim (202) 720-8998, WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2011—The National Organic Program (NOP) today released an updated version of the Program Handbook, a resource to clarify existing Federal organic requirements and offer best practices to help the regulated industry comply. Issued every quarter as necessary, the latest edition of the handbook now includes policy memos, or formal communications addressed to the public concerning a specific regulatory requirement. Currently, these policy memos address the following topics: Accredited Certifying Agent Inspection Authority;  Sulfur Dioxide in wine made with organic fruit; Attestation Statement for agricultural products certified under the U.S.-Canadian Equivalence Arrangement; Use of Natural Flavors; Certification of agricultural products that meet NOP Standards; Labeling of Alcoholic Beverages; Verification of Materials; Access to the Outdoors for Livestock; Reporting Health and Safety Violations; Private Label Certification; California State Organic Program, Additional Requirements Granted; Calculating the Percentage of Organically Produced Ingredients; Grower Group Certification; NOP Statements on Cloning and Organic Livestock Production; Confinement of Poultry Flocks

Additionally, a new instruction document addresses disclosure of information concerning USDA accredited certifying agents and certified operations. Instruction documents set forth or clarify existing NOP procedures and offer best practices for conducting business related to certification, accreditation, international activities, and compliance and enforcement.

“The updated handbook is intended to help the organic industry consistently comply with the organic regulations,” said Rayne Pegg, Agricultural Marketing Service administrator. “By including current and valid policy memos issued by the NOP since the inception of the program, the handbook becomes that much more of a valuable resource for organic producers, handlers, and consumers.”

The NOP aims to make clear and transparent the requirements that have been imposed by existing organic legislation and Federal regulations. The handbook also serves to provide exemplary standard operating procedures and specific approaches to help ensure that all parties implement the program’s mandate consistently and effectively.

Most readily accessible at, the resource can also be distributed in hard copy by contacting the National Organic Program Standards Division, 1400 Independence Ave., SW., Room 2646-S, Ag Stop 0268, Washington, D.C. 20250-0268; telephone (202) 720-3252; fax (202) 205-7808. For more information, contact Melissa Bailey, Ph.D., director, Standards Division of NOP, at (202) 720-3252.

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