USDA Organics regulations : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I read a couple days ago that the USDA has finally got some sort of standards set as to what can be labeled organic. Supposedly this will simplify things since at the moment each state has it's own set of rules, if any at all.

Not sure at all what this means..but I want to read just what has been established as rules or whatever for those who want to label their stuff organic. Does anyone have a link or know where I can find out more?

I have to admit I was surprised that no one mentioned this...maybe because this is not a good thing? (yeah I know, what that the govenment sticks its fingers into is good?)

Curious if anyone has comments on this too.

Peace and blessings, Sarah

-- Sarah (, December 21, 2000


Reuters news (The ones Yahoo use) had a piece on it yesterday. You may be able to go to their site and see the archived stories.

-- Jay Blair in N. AL (, December 21, 2000.

Here's the text of an article on the NY Times web page. Free registration is required to access. Go to the science section, click on more science news and you'll find it. More links on that page.

December 21, 2000 U.S. Imposes Standards for Organic-Food Labeling By MARIAN BURROS WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 — The Department of Agriculture today announced final adoption of the first standards that the federal government has ever imposed for the labeling and processing of organic foods.

The new standards, which were ordered by Congress and then took the department more than a decade to produce, ban the use of irradiation, biotechnology and sewer-sludge fertilizer for any food labeled organic.

The department planned to allow the use of all three methods when it introduced proposed regulations in 1997. But after comment from almost 300,000 people protesting their inclusion, the agency withdrew that proposal and started over.

Other major provisions of the rules issued today ban synthetic pesticides and fertilizers in the growing of organic food, and antibiotics in meat labeled organic. These bans were a part of the earlier proposal.

At a news conference held in the produce aisles of a local Fresh Fields store, one of a nationwide chain of natural-foods supermarkets, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman called the new regulations "the strongest and most comprehensive organic standard in the world."

Katherine DiMatteo, a spokeswoman for the organic foods industry, welcomed the regulations.

"The long wait for the final rule was worthwhile," said Ms. DiMatteo, executive director of the Organic Trade Association. "U.S.D.A. has delivered a strict organic standard that is a great boost to the organic industry. In no way is this final rule less than what the industry wanted."

The regulations come at a time of soaring popularity for organic foods. Domestic sales have increased more than 20 percent annually each year since 1990, and reached $6 billion last year.

The niche has become significant enough that large conventional-food companies have been buying up smaller organic companies. General Mills owns Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen Tomatoes; Heinz owns Earth's Best Baby Food; J. M. Smucker sells Santa Cruz and Knudsen juices.

Organics have also become an increasingly important factor in overseas sales, although until now the European Union and Japan have made it difficult for American exporters of those foods to do business, because they do not want to deal with the 44 different state and private organic certifying agencies in the United States.

When the new rules take effect, starting on Feb. 19, they will have to deal with only one: the Agriculture Department. (Similarly that existing patchwork of standards will be superseded by the new regulations in the domestic market as well.)

"The rule will assist organic producers who want to export their products," said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, author of the law that called for the regulations.

While the Bush administration could try to overturn the rule, which does not become fully effective until 2002, there is little such expectation, given the importance of overseas sales and the support for regulation among large numbers of organic- food consumers.

The regulations divide organic labeling into four categories:

¶Products that are labeled "100 percent organic" must contain only organic ingredients.

¶The ingredients of products labeled "organic" must be at least 95 percent organic by weight.

¶Processed products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients may be labeled "made with organic ingredients," and as many as three of those ingredients may be listed on the front of the package. This is a stricter standard than one proposed earlier, which would have required only 50 percent organic ingredients.

¶Processed products with less than 70 percent organic ingredients may list those ingredients on the information panel but may not carry the term "organic" anywhere on the front of the package.

Products meeting the requirements for "100 percent organic," "organic" and "made with organic ingredients" may display those terms and the percentage of organic content on the front. And a "U.S.D.A." seal may appear on products in the first two categories (and in their advertisements), but not on products in the two others.

As a concession to the National Food Processors Association, a trade group made up mostly of conventional-food processors, the Agriculture Department changed the organic seal from an originally proposed shield — like the one that goes on meat, eggs and other products that are government-inspected — to a circle.

The association had also asked the agency to put a disclaimer on organic labels, so that they would say such food was no safer and no more nutritious than conventional food. But the agency refused.

Tim Willard, the association's vice president for communications, said: "I think the sense of the industry is that it is past time to have consistent national standards for organic food. The challenge for U.S.D.A. is to make sure consumers don't think the seal of approval means that the food is safer or more nutritious. We don't want them to think, `I'm buying organic and therefore I don't have to pay attention to nutrition,' or that the label is a license to mishandle the food."

-- Candy (, December 21, 2000.

Here's the addy of the National Organic Program web site.

-- Candy (, December 21, 2000.

Thanks for the ideas-found a few articles...and am organics about growing food that is safer and healthier or not? I was alwasy under the impression that both of those contributed to the reasons behind most peoples choice to grow organically, and choose organic foods. Maybe I missed something somewhere.

Anyway, apparently this is not the case. Hereis an excert from one of the articles I found called U.S. Sets 'Organic' Standard from the Washington Post:

"The conventional food industry has fought many provisions of the organic proposal since legislation mandating a national organic standard was passed by Congress in 1990. Just recently, the National Food Processors Association asked the USDA to require that the organic labels include a statement saying the products are no more safe or nutritious than conventional foods. In the end, the USDA did not require the disclaimer but did modify the label design by dropping the traditional USDA shield and eliminating "certified" from the seal.

Yesterday, the Grocery Manufacturers of America said it still opposes many aspects of the organic rule and wants the department to monitor how consumers understand the new label.

"If there is evidence that consumers believe it means they are buying a safer product, then we want the USDA to pull the seal because the seal has nothing to do with food safety," said Susan Ferenc, the group's vice president for science and regulatory policy.

Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of the Organic Trade Association, agreed that an organic label does not promise a necessarily safer product, although consumers often believe that it does. But she said that because of the specific practices that organic farming employs, it can fairly claim to produce food in a way that is safer for the environment.

"There are no pesticides or low-level antibiotics in organic farming, and you don't see the vast fields of one single crop with organic, either," she said. "Organic farming does not harm the environment like some conventional farming, and we think there is a safety and health benefit to that."

Surely people are not doing it just for the money!!

Oh well. Thanks for the help!

Peace and blessings, Sarah

-- Sarah (, December 21, 2000.

Mark my words, Ultimately this will be used to make it harder and harder for Organic producers to sell their crops without jumping through USDA hoops. This will come to no good, and will make it more difficult to be certified Organic. I have decided not to call any crop I produce Organic. I call it Pesticide/herbicide/chemical fertilizer free. I have no desire to have the government, out on my farm making my life miserable. Hide and watch folks, those organic farmers are fixin to meet Uncle Sam up close and personal. This has a whole lot to do with controlling the food supply, and creating more dependence on government.

Little Bit Farm

-- Little bit Farm (, December 21, 2000.

Little Bit is absolutely correct. First of all, the reason there were so many organic certifying agencies is because they couldn't agree on the rules. What makes you think they will agree to the government's rules. Secondly, it is all about money. The big food producers have had a lot of input into these regs. and they are set up to be friendly to them. It took great effort to get rid of genetically engineered crops and bio-sludge from the first draft of rules. There is a huge market out there for "organic" foods and why should General Mills and the others not want a piece of the pie.

We sell our produce and pigs with about the same description Little Bit uses. We explain what we use and don't use and why. Educate your customer and they will trust you to provide wholesome food to them.

-- ray s. (, December 21, 2000.

Yup, I think you may be right Little Bit. The way I understand it the independent certifiers think the usda standards are not strict enuf and you should see the hoops you gotta jump thru to get certified with them, not to mention the expense. On the other hand it might be worthwhile. We had a bumper crop of tomatoes a couple years ago. We raised them organically but are not certified. I called the local co- op to see what they would pay for them. Non-certified, $.30/lb, Certified $.90/lb.

What the article does not mention is whats involved in getting the usda stamp of approval. If you meet the guidelines can you merely say the product meets the standards for 100% or 95% organic?

-- john leake (, December 21, 2000.

Anytime the gov't gets involved in our lives, there either screw it up, make it more expensive, or BOTH.

-- JLS in NW AZ (, December 22, 2000.

I agree with JLS. I don't want them in my life one speck more that they already are. If it ment selling at .30/lb rather than .90/lb I still would not want the government on my land. We market like Little Bit.

-- Diane (, December 22, 2000.

For sixty cents less and no federales on my land, I agree that I would take the lessor amount of cash. The post by LilBit summed it up. The government is overstepping it's bounds every dang day, this is just another step. Thanks for the proper phrasing as well,LBF.

-- Doreen (, December 22, 2000.

And here's the kicker. The largest organic farming organization in the country is the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. They certify all the organic growers in Maine, have probably the best standards in the country -- and under these new rules they can't certify growers anymore because MOFGA is made up of farmers. The new rules state that farmers can't participate in the certification process.

For those who look upon these fed regs with suspicion, you are absolutely justified. Within five years, the big growers will have them amended into uselessness and set up so only the corporate farms can be certified. This is the beginning of the end for the "organic" label, in my opinion.

-- Cash (, December 22, 2000.

John- Can I suggest working on those negotiating skills. There's a lot of room between 30 cents and 90 cents to find a compromise. Grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers isn't quite certified organic, but I'm guessing a savvy co-op manager could get it to sell especially if he markets it as locally grown. Work on building that relationship before you have a bumper crop to sell and it will make the sell much easier.

-- ray s (, December 22, 2000.

While I don't necessarily disagree with the comments since my last I'd like to clarify what I think has been a misunderstanding of my post. I was referring to the PRIVATE certifying agencies, not the government. They are pricey and extremely strict---almost rediculously so. It would seem it would be like inviting a government agency to camp in your back yard.

-- john leake (, December 22, 2000.

If your gross sales total $5000 or less, you don't have to be certified to label your produce "organic".

-- Sam in W.Va. (, December 26, 2000.

Another way to approach this is to label your product the way you grow it. I sell my corn labelled as "Grown without synthetic pesticide, herbicide, or fertilizer", which it is. If people want to call that "organic", they're welcome to; if not, that's also ok, because the money in any type of farming is NEVER in selling to your co-op, but in making your own markets. Anti-government sentiment aside, if you're doing this for money, you'd better be able to make the rules work for you rather than against you-no matter who is making the rules.


-- Arnold (, December 26, 2000.

Our state already has their own certifying guidelines.They weren't unreasonable, by my standards,since I was already doing what they wanted.The cost was minimal,but the private firms are expensive.

We didn't have any exemption on ammount,but that may be implemented here now,I don't know.So I'm waiting to see how this ruling affects my state.Haven't heard back- all on vacation.

But we only sold locally,and for same as nonorganic,bc we don't have alot and don't have an organic demand here.We sold it pesticide free,as stated above.

One of the bigger certified organic growers on another list,was worried that this is a move to freeze out the little farmer like himself, again ,in favor of coorperate farms and food manufactures.I'm also waiting to see his take on it.

-- sharon wt (, December 29, 2000.

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