1. News & Issues
Send to a Friend via Email
'Organic' Must Now Mean Organic
Part 3: Rules on Production and Handling
 More of this Feature
• Part 2: Labeling Rules
• Part 3: Growth and Production Rules
 
  Related Resources
• FDA on Frankenfoods
• Consumer Resources
• Current Recalls
 
 From Other Guides
• Consumer Advocate
• Organic Issues
• New Age Diet
• Frankenfoods & Nutrition
 
 Elsewhere on the Web
• USDA Marketing Svc.
• Complete Set of Rules
Fact Sheets on Rules
Report on CNN Online
 
 

From the USDA's National Standards on Organic Agricultural Production and Handling rules, Subpart C deals with growth, production and handling of organically grown and produced foods and food products.

Partial Preamble

General Requirements

This subpart sets forth the requirements with which production and handling operations must comply in order to sell, label, or represent agricultural products as "100 percent organic," "organic," or "made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))." The producer or handler of an organic production or handling operation must comply with all applicable provisions of subpart C. Any production practice implemented in accordance with this subpart must maintain or improve the natural resources, including soil and water quality, of the operation. Production and handling operations which sell, label, or represent agricultural products as organic in any manner and which are exempt or excluded from certification must comply with the requirements of this subpart, except for the development of an organic system plan.

Production and Handling (General)

The Organic Food Production Act of 1990 (OFPA or Act) requires that all crop, wild crop, livestock, and handling operations requiring certification submit an organic system plan to their certifying agent and, where applicable, the State organic program (SOP). The organic system plan is a detailed description of how an operation will achieve, document, and sustain compliance with all applicable provisions in the OFPA and these regulations. The certifying agent must concur that the proposed organic system plan fulfills the requirements of subpart C, and any subsequent modification of the organic plan by the producer or handler must receive the approval of the certifying agent. [Read Complete Preamble]

Subpart C - Organic Production and Handling Requirements

§ 205.200 General. The producer or handler of a production or handling operation intending to sell, label, or represent agricultural products as "100 percent organic," "organic," or "made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))" must comply with the applicable provisions of this subpart. Production practices implemented in accordance with this subpart must maintain or improve the natural resources of the operation, including soil and water quality.

§ 205.201 Organic production and handling system plan.

(a) The producer or handler of a production or handling operation, except as exempt or excluded under § 205.101, intending to sell, label, or represent agricultural products as "100 percent organic," "organic," or "made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))" must develop an organic production or handling system plan that is agreed to by the producer or handler and an accredited certifying agent. An organic system plan must meet the requirements set forth in this section for organic production or handling. An organic production or handling system plan must include:

(1) A description of practices and procedures to be performed and maintained, including the frequency with which they will be performed;

(2) A list of each substance to be used as a production or handling input, indicating its composition, source, location(s) where it will be used, and documentation of commercial availability, as applicable;

(3) A description of the monitoring practices and procedures to be performed and maintained, including the frequency with which they will be performed, to verify that the plan is effectively implemented;

(4) A description of the recordkeeping system implemented to comply with the requirements established in § 205.103;

(5) A description of the management practices and physical barriers established to prevent commingling of organic and nonorganic products on a split operation and to prevent contact of organic production and handling operations and products with prohibited substances; and

(6) Additional information deemed necessary by the certifying agent to evaluate compliance with the regulations.

(b) A producer may substitute a plan prepared to meet the requirements of another Federal, State, or local government regulatory program for the organic system plan: Provided, That, the submitted plan meets all the requirements of this subpart.

§ 205.202 Land requirements.

Any field or farm parcel from which harvested crops are intended to be sold, labeled, or represented as "organic," must:

(a) Have been managed in accordance with the provisions of §§ 205.203 through 205.206;

(b) Have had no prohibited substances, as listed in § 205.105, applied to it for a period of 3 years immediately preceding harvest of the crop; and

(c) Have distinct, defined boundaries and buffer zones such as runoff diversions to prevent the unintended application of a prohibited substance to the crop or contact with a prohibited substance applied to adjoining land that is not under organic management.

§ 205.203 Soil fertility and crop nutrient management practice standard.

(a) The producer must select and implement tillage and cultivation practices that maintain or improve the physical, chemical, and biological condition of soil and minimize soil erosion.

(b) The producer must manage crop nutrients and soil fertility through rotations, cover crops, and the application of plant and animal materials.

(c) The producer must manage plant and animal materials to maintain or improve soil organic matter content in a manner that does not contribute to contamination of crops, soil, or water by plant nutrients, pathogenic organisms, heavy metals, or residues of prohibited substances. Animal and plant materials include:

(1) Raw animal manure, which must be composted unless it is:

(i) Applied to land used for a crop not intended for human consumption;

(ii) Incorporated into the soil not less than 120 days prior to the harvest of a product whose edible portion has direct contact with the soil surface or soil particles; or

(iii) Incorporated into the soil not less than 90 days prior to the harvest of a product whose edible portion does not have direct contact with the soil surface or soil particles;

(2) Composted plant and animal materials produced though a process that

(i) established an initial C:N ratio of between 25:1 and 40:1; and

(ii) maintained a temperature of between 131 F and 170 F for 3 days using an in-vessel or static aerated pile system; or

(iii) maintained a temperature of between 131F and 170F for 15 days using a windrow composting system, during which period, the materials must be turned a minimum of five times.

(3) Uncomposted plant materials.

(d) A producer may manage crop nutrients and soil fertility to maintain or improve soil organic matter content in a manner that does not contribute to contamination of crops, soil, or water by plant nutrients, pathogenic organisms, heavy metals, or residues of prohibited substances by applying:

(1) A crop nutrient or soil amendment included on the National List of synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production;

(2) A mined substance of low solubility;

(3) A mined substance of high solubility, Provided, That, the substance is used in compliance with the conditions established on the National List of nonsynthetic materials prohibited for crop production;

(4) Ash obtained from the burning of a plant or animal material, except as prohibited in paragraph (e) of this section: Provided, That, the material burned has not been treated or combined with a prohibited substance or the ash is not included on the National List of nonsynthetic substances prohibited for use in organic crop production; and

(5) A plant or animal material that has been chemically altered by a manufacturing process: Provided, That, the material is included on the National List of synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production established in § 205.601.

(e) The producer must not use:

(1) Any fertilizer or composted plant and animal material that contains a synthetic substance not included on the National List of synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production;

(2) Sewage sludge (biosolids) as defined in 40 CFR Part 503; and

(3) Burning as a means of disposal for crop residues produced on the operation: Except, That, burning may be used to suppress the spread of disease or to stimulate seed germination.

§ 205.204 Seeds and planting stock practice standard.

(a) The producer must use organically grown seeds, annual seedlings, and planting stock: Except, That,

(1) Nonorganically produced, untreated seeds and planting stock may be used to produce an organic crop when an equivalent organically produced variety is not commercially available, Except, That, organically produced seed must be used for the production of edible sprouts;

(2) Nonorganically produced seeds and planting stock that have been treated with a substance included on the National List of synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production may be used to produce an organic crop when an equivalent organically produced or untreated variety is not commercially available;

(3) Nonorganically produced annual seedlings may be used to produce an organic crop when a temporary variance has been granted in accordance with § 205.290(a)(2);

(4) Nonorganically produced planting stock to be used to produce a perennial crop may be sold, labeled, or represented as organically produced only after the planting stock has been maintained under a system of organic management for a period of no less than 1 year; and

(5) Seeds, annual seedlings, and planting stock treated with prohibited substances may be used to produce an organic crop when the application of the materials is a requirement of Federal or State phytosanitary regulations.

§ 205.205 Crop rotation practice standard.

The producer must implement a crop rotation including but not limited to sod, cover crops, green manure crops, and catch crops that provide the following functions that are applicable to the operation:

(a) Maintain or improve soil organic matter content;

(b) Provide for pest management in annual and perennial crops;

(c) Manage deficient or excess plant nutrients; and

(d) Provide erosion control.

§ 205.206 Crop pest, weed, and disease management practice standard.

(a) The producer must use management practices to prevent crop pests, weeds, and diseases including but not limited to:

(1) Crop rotation and soil and crop nutrient management practices, as provided for in §§ 205.203 and 205.205;

(2) Sanitation measures to remove disease vectors, weed seeds, and habitat for pest organisms; and

(3) Cultural practices that enhance crop health, including selection of plant species and varieties with regard to suitability to site-specific conditions and resistance to prevalent pests, weeds, and diseases.

(b) Pest problems may be controlled through mechanical or physical methods including but not limited to:

(1) Augmentation or introduction of predators or parasites of the pest species;

(2) Development of habitat for natural enemies of pests;

(3) Nonsynthetic controls such as lures, traps, and repellents.

(c) Weed problems may be controlled through:

(1) Mulching with fully biodegradable materials;

(2) Mowing;

(3) Livestock grazing;

(4) Hand weeding and mechanical cultivation;

(5) Flame, heat, or electrical means; or

(6) Plastic or other synthetic mulches: Provided, That, they are removed from the field at the end of the growing or harvest season.

(d) Disease problems may be controlled through:

(1) Management practices which suppress the spread of disease organisms; or

(2) Application of nonsynthetic biological, botanical, or mineral inputs.

(e) When the practices provided for in paragraphs (a) through (d) of this section are insufficient to prevent or control crop pests, weeds, and diseases, a biological or botanical substance or a substance included on the National List of synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production may be applied to prevent, suppress, or control pests, weeds, or diseases: Provided, That, the conditions for using the substance are documented in the organic system plan.

(f) The producer must not use lumber treated with arsenate or other prohibited materials for new installations or replacement purposes in contact with soil or livestock.

§ 205.207 Wild-crop harvesting practice standard.

(a) A wild crop that is intended to be sold, labeled, or represented as organic must be harvested from a designated area that has had no prohibited substance, as set forth in § 205.105, applied to it for a period of 3 years immediately preceding the harvest of the wild crop.

(b) A wild crop must be harvested in a manner that ensures that such harvesting or gathering will not be destructive to the environment and will sustain the growth and production of the wild crop.

§§ 205.208 - 205.235 [Reserved]

§ 205.236 Origin of livestock.

(a) Livestock products that are to be sold, labeled, or represented as organic must be from livestock under continuous organic management from the last third of gestation or hatching: Except, That, (1) Poultry. Poultry or edible poultry products must be from poultry that has been under continuous organic management beginning no later than the second day of life;

(2) Dairy animals. Milk or milk products must be from animals that have been under continuous organic management beginning no later than 1 year prior to the production of the milk or milk products that are to be sold, labeled, or represented as organic, Except, That, when an entire, distinct herd is converted to organic production, the producer may:

(i) For the first 9 months of the year, provide a minimum of 80-percent feed that is either organic or raised from land included in the organic system plan and managed in compliance with organic crop requirements; and

(ii) provide feed in compliance with § 205.237 for the final 3 months.

(iii) Once an entire, distinct herd has been converted to organic production, all dairy animals shall be under organic management from the last third of gestation.

(3) Breeder stock. Livestock used as breeder stock may be brought from a nonorganic operation onto an organic operation at any time: Provided, That, if such livestock are gestating and the offspring are to be raised as organic livestock, the breeder stock must be brought onto the facility no later than the last third of gestation.

(b) The following are prohibited:

(1) Livestock or edible livestock products that are removed from an organic operation and subsequently managed on a nonorganic operation may be not sold, labeled, or represented as organically produced.

(2) Breeder or dairy stock that has not been under continuous organic management since the last third of gestation may not be sold, labeled, or represented as organic slaughter stock.

(c) The producer of an organic livestock operation must maintain records sufficient to preserve the identity of all organically managed animals and edible and nonedible animal products produced on the operation.

§ 205.237 Livestock feed.

(a) The producer of an organic livestock operation must provide livestock with a total feed ration composed of agricultural products, including pasture and forage, that are organically produced and, if applicable, organically handled: Except, That, nonsynthetic substances and synthetic substances allowed under § 205.603 may be used as feed additives and supplements.

(b) The producer of an organic operation must not:

(1) Use animal drugs, including hormones, to promote growth;

(2) Provide feed supplements or additives in amounts above those needed for adequate nutrition and health maintenance for the species at its specific stage of life;

(3) Feed plastic pellets for roughage;

(4) Feed formulas containing urea or manure;

(5) Feed mammalian or poultry slaughter by-products to mammals or poultry; or

(6) Use feed, feed additives, and feed supplements in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

§ 205.238 Livestock health care practice standard.

(a) The producer must establish and maintain preventive livestock health care practices, including:

(1) Selection of species and types of livestock with regard to suitability for site-specific conditions and resistance to prevalent diseases and parasites;

(2) Provision of a feed ration sufficient to meet nutritional requirements, including vitamins, minerals, protein and/or amino acids, fatty acids, energy sources, and fiber (ruminants);

(3) Establishment of appropriate housing, pasture conditions, and sanitation practices to minimize the occurrence and spread of diseases and parasites;

(4) Provision of conditions which allow for exercise, freedom of movement, and reduction of stress appropriate to the species;

(5) Performance of physical alterations as needed to promote the animal's welfare and in a manner that minimizes pain and stress; and

(6) Administration of vaccines and other veterinary biologics.

(b) When preventive practices and veterinary biologics are inadequate to prevent sickness, a producer may administer synthetic medications: Provided, That, such medications are allowed under § 205.603. Parasiticides allowed under § 205.603 may be used on

(1) Breeder stock, when used prior to the last third of gestation but not during lactation for progeny that are to be sold, labeled, or represented as organically produced; and

(2) Dairy stock, when used a minimum of 90 days prior to the production of milk or milk products that are to be sold, labeled, or represented as organic.

(c) The producer of an organic livestock operation must not:

(1) Sell, label, or represent as organic any animal or edible product derived from any animal treated with antibiotics, any substance that contains a synthetic substance not allowed under § 205.603, or any substance that contains a nonsynthetic substance prohibited in § 205.604.

(2) Administer any animal drug, other than vaccinations, in the absence of illness;

(3) Administer hormones for growth promotion;

(4) Administer synthetic parasiticides on a routine basis;

(5) Administer synthetic parasiticides to slaughter stock;

(6) Administer animal drugs in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act; or

(7) Withhold medical treatment from a sick animal in an effort to preserve its organic status. All appropriate medications must be used to restore an animal to health when methods acceptable to organic production fail. Livestock treated with a prohibited substance must be clearly identified and shall not be sold, labeled, or represented as organically produced.

§ 205.239 Livestock living conditions.

(a) The producer of an organic livestock operation must establish and maintain livestock living conditions which accommodate the health and natural behavior of animals, including:

(1) Access to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, and direct sunlight suitable to the species, its stage of production, the climate, and the environment;

(2) Access to pasture for ruminants;

(3) Appropriate clean, dry bedding. If the bedding is typically consumed by the animal species, it must comply with the feed requirements of § 205.237;

(4) Shelter designed to allow for:

(i) Natural maintenance, comfort behaviors, and opportunity to exercise;

(ii) Temperature level, ventilation, and air circulation suitable to the species; and

(iii) Reduction of potential for livestock injury;

(b) The producer of an organic livestock operation may provide temporary confinement for an animal because of:

(1) Inclement weather;

(2) The animal's stage of production;

(3) Conditions under which the health, safety, or well being of the animal could be jeopardized; or

(4) Risk to soil or water quality.

(c) The producer of an organic livestock operation must manage manure in a manner that does not contribute to contamination of crops, soil, or water by plant nutrients, heavy metals, or pathogenic organisms and optimizes recycling of nutrients.

§§ 205.240 - 205.269 [Reserved]

§ 205.270 Organic handling requirements.

(a) Mechanical or biological methods, including but not limited to cooking, baking, curing, heating, drying, mixing, grinding, churning, separating, distilling, extracting, slaughtering, cutting, fermenting, eviscerating, preserving, dehydrating, freezing, chilling, or otherwise manufacturing, and the packaging, canning, jarring, or otherwise enclosing food in a container may be used to process an organically produced agricultural product for the purpose of retarding spoilage or otherwise preparing the agricultural product for market.

(b) Nonagricultural substances allowed under § 205.605 and nonorganically produced agricultural products allowed under § 205.606 may be used:

(1) In or on a processed agricultural product intended to be sold, labeled, or represented as "organic," pursuant to § 205.301(b), if not commercially available in organic form.

(2) In or on a processed agricultural product intended to be sold, labeled, or represented as "made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))," pursuant to § 205.301(c).

(c) The handler of an organic handling operation must not use in or on agricultural products intended to be sold, labeled, or represented as "100 percent organic," "organic," or "made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))," or in or on any ingredients labeled as organic:

(1) Practices prohibited under paragraphs (e) and (f) of § 205.105.

(2) A volatile synthetic solvent or other synthetic processing aid not allowed under § 205.605, Except, That, nonorganic ingredients in products labeled "made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))" are not subject to this requirement.

§ 205.271 Facility pest management practice standard.

(a) The producer or handler of an organic facility must use management practices to prevent pests, including but not limited to:

(1) Removal of pest habitat, food sources, and breeding areas;

(2) Prevention of access to handling facilities; and

(3) Management of environmental factors, such as temperature, light, humidity, atmosphere, and air circulation, to prevent pest reproduction.

(b) Pests may be controlled through:

(1) Mechanical or physical controls including but not limited to traps, light, or sound; or

(2) Lures and repellents using nonsynthetic or synthetic substances consistent with the National List.

(c) If the practices provided for in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section are not effective to prevent or control pests, a nonsynthetic or synthetic substance consistent with the National List may be applied.

(d) If the practices provided for in paragraphs (a), (b), and © of this section are not effective to prevent or control facility pests, a synthetic substance not on the National List may be applied, Provided, That, the handler and certifying agent agree on the substance, method of application, and measures to be taken to prevent contact of the organically produced products or ingredients with the substance used.

(e) The handler of an organic handling operation who applies a nonsynthetic or synthetic substance to prevent or control pests must update the operation's organic handling plan to reflect the use of such substances and methods of application. The updated organic plan must include a list of all measures taken to prevent contact of the organically produced products or ingredients with the substance used.

(f) Notwithstanding the practices provided for in paragraphs (a), (b), (c), and (d) of this section, a handler may otherwise use substances to prevent or control pests as required by Federal, State, or local laws and regulations, Provided, That, measures are taken to prevent contact of the organically produced products or ingredients with the substance used.

§ 205.272 Commingling and contact with prohibited substance prevention practice standard.

(a) The handler of an organic handling operation must implement measures necessary to prevent the commingling of organic and nonorganic products and protect organic products from contact with prohibited substances.

(b) The following are prohibited for use in the handling of any organically produced agricultural product or ingredient labeled in accordance with subpart D of this part:

(1) Packaging materials, and storage containers, or bins that contain a synthetic fungicide, preservative, or fumigant;

(2) The use or reuse of any bag or container that has been in contact with any substance in such a manner as to compromise the organic integrity of any organically produced product or ingredient placed in those containers, unless such reusable bag or container has been thoroughly cleaned and poses no risk of contact of the organically produced product or ingredient with the substance used.

§§ 205.273 - 205.289 [Reserved]

§ 205.290 Temporary variances.

(a) Temporary variances from the requirements in §§ 205.203 through 205.207, 205.236 through 205.239, and 205.270 through 205.272 may be established by the Administrator for the following reasons:

(1) Natural disasters declared by the Secretary;

(2) Damage caused by drought, wind, flood, excessive moisture, hail, tornado, earthquake, fire, or other business interruption; and

(3) Practices used for the purpose of conducting research or trials of techniques, varieties, or ingredients used in organic production or handling.

(b) A State organic program's governing State official or certifying agent may recommend in writing to the Administrator that a temporary variance from a standard set forth in subpart C of this part for organic production or handling operations be established: Provided, That, such variance is based on one or more of the reasons listed in paragraph (a) of this section.

(c) The Administrator will provide written notification to certifying agents upon establishment of a temporary variance applicable to the certifying agent's certified production or handling operations and specify the period of time it shall remain in effect, subject to extension as the Administrator deems necessary.

(d) A certifying agent, upon notification from the Administrator of the establishment of a temporary variance, must notify each production or handling operation it certifies to which the temporary variance applies.

(e) Temporary variances will not be granted for any practice, material, or procedure prohibited under § 205.105.

§§ 205.291-205.299 [Reserved]

 

Subscribe to the Newsletter
Name
Email

You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.