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AnnouncementJanuary 22, 2014

The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is pleased to announce final guidance for handling unpackaged organic products.

This guidance implements a recommendation from the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and responds to findings from the Office of Inspector General.

We also updated an instruction for certifiers on reinstating suspended organic operations.

Additionally, you can now access a variety of conservation guides and webinars tailored for organic operations.

Handling Unpackaged Organic Products

In an October 2010 recommendation, the NOSB expressed concern that certain products were moving through unregulated segments of the marketing chain.

The NOSB noted that uncertified brokers, distributors, and traders lack the regular oversight of accredited certifying agents and the National Organic Program (NOP), opening the door for conventional products to be mislabeled as organic.

After reviewing public comments, NOP has clarified certification requirements for operations handling unpackaged organic products. If an operation:

  • Only handles organic products that are enclosed and remain in the same container without being processed or relabeled, the operation doesn't need to be certified organic.
  • Transports unpackaged organic products but doesn't handle them, the operation doesn't need to be certified. Certified organic producers and handlers must maintain records and ensure organic integrity throughout transport.
  • Handles unpackaged organic products, it must be certified organic.

View NOP 5031: Handling Unpackaged Organic Products

View NOP 5031-1: Response to Comments

Get Certified Organic

The NOP will cover this and other topics at its annual organic certifier training in February 2014.

Reinstating Suspended Organic Operations

If an organic farm or business violates the USDA organic regulations, its certifier or AMS may suspend or revoke the operation's organic certificate and/or issue financial penalties.

Once an organic operation's certification has been suspended, only the NOP has the authority to approve its reinstatement. The updated certifier instruction describes the roles and responsibilities of the following groups throughout the reinstatement process:

  • Suspended farm or business
  • Suspended farm or business' certifier
  • AMS

View NOP 2605: Reinstating Suspended Organic Operations 

Organic Conservation Resources

USDA's Environmental Quality Incentives Program provides financial payments and technical support to producers for implementing conservation practices such as conservation buffers, cover crops, and pest management strategies.

By setting aside funding specifically for organic agriculture, this program helps organic farmers and ranchers meet requirements in the USDA organic regulations related to natural resources conservation and biodiversity.

New USDA-funded guides and planned intensive trainings on the following topics will help USDA staff, agricultural professionals, and interested producers better understand natural resource management on organic operations:

  • Nutrient management budgeting
  • Pest management techniques 
  • Cover crop selection and application 
  • Conservation buffer design and maintenance 

View Guides 

Funded by a grant from the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, this project is the result of a partnership between:

  • USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Oregon Tilth's Organic Conservation Program
  • The National Center for Appropriate Technology
  • The Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides 
  • The Xerces Society

Interested in adapting these guides to your state/region or requesting a training? Contact Sarah Brown, Joint Organic Conversation Specialist, Oregon Tilth + USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.  

Additionally, join a webinar on a variety of organic and sustainable agriculture topics!

View Scheduled Webinars

Hosted by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service & Oregon Tilth


About the Agricultural Marketing Service

USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) facilitates the competitive and efficient marketing of agricultural products. Through its National Organic Program, AMS facilitates trade and ensures the integrity of organic agricultural products by consistently implementing organic standards and enforcing compliance with the regulations throughout the world. Learn more.

About the USDA Organic Insider

The USDA Organic Insider informs the organic community on a wide range of functions, including regulatory updates, requests for public comments, and USDA programs and services.

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