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AnnouncementFebruary 13, 2014

The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is pleased to announce: a new instruction for certifiers on who needs to be certified organic, a new temporary variance to support livestock producers in California, and upcoming webinars from the AMS Fruit and Vegetable Program.

Who Needs to Be Certified Organic?

Most farms and businesses that grow, handle, or process organic products must be certified. Through this certifier instruction, the National Organic Program (NOP) is reminding certifiers that organic agricultural products must be produced and handled exclusively at certified organic farms and handling operations to ensure organic integrity throughout the product's lifecycle.

This policy clarification will increase transparency throughout the supply chain and provide additional opportunities for operations currently serving the organic sector.

We are also committed to continuing our work to make organic certification affordable, attainable, and accessible through our Sound and Sensible initiative. 

NOP 4009: Who Needs to Be Certified

Questions and Answers

Currently growing, handling, or processing organic products without being certified?

Getting Certified Organic: Learn about certification requirements, access a list of certifiers, and view additional resources to get certified 

Drought Relief: Organic Ruminant Producers in California

Secretary Vilsack had designated 54 of 58 California counties as primary natural disaster areas due to drought conditions. As a result, organic ruminant livestock operations may not be able to meet the organic pasture requirements in the USDA organic regulations. On February 12, Agricultural Marketing Service Associate Administrator Rex A. Barnes granted a temporary variance to provide relief for impacted livestock producers.


Temporary Variance Letter to Certifiers


USDA Drought Information 


About Temporary Variances: AMS may grant temporary variances from the production and handling requirements of the USDA organic regulations for the following reasons: Natural disasters declared by the Secretary; Damage caused by severe weather or other business interruption; or Practices used for the purpose of conducting research in organic production or handling. Procedures for requesting temporary variances are described in NOP 2606: Processing Requests for Temporary Variances


USDA Webinar Series from the
Fruit and Vegetable Program

The AMS Fruit and Vegetable Program invites you to attend a series of free, interactive webinars on our many programs and services.


These informative webinars are designed for fruit and vegetable growers, packers, shippers, processors, wholesalers and retailers of all sizesRegistration is required and space is limited.  Log on today to register - it's your first step to learning how we can work together to meet your unique business needs.

How to Sell Domestic Foods to the USDA, 

March 20, 2014, 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET,
To register:


An Overview of the PACA Complaint Process*,  

April 30, 2014, 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET,  

To register:


USDA Fresh Produce Inspection 101,  

May 22, 2014, 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET,  

To register:


An Introduction to the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA)*

June 26, 2014, 2:00-3:00 p. m. ET,
To register:


* Learn more about the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) by watching our video.


If you have any questions about our webinar series or USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, please contact Christopher Purdy at (202) 720-3209 or
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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