The National Organic Program (“NOP”) is the federal regulatory framework governing organic food. It is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”). The Organic Food Production Act (“OFPA”) required that the USDA develop national standards for organic products. The NOP facilitates domestic and international marketing of fresh food that is organically produced and assures consumers that such products meet uniform and consistent standards.
The labeling requirements of the NOP apply to raw, fresh and processed products that contain organic agricultural ingredients. Agricultural products that are sold, labeled, or represented as organic must be produced and processed in accordance with the NOP standards. Under the NOP, farmers and food processors who use the word “organic” in reference to their businesses and products must be certified organic.
However, producers with annual sales not exceeding $5,000 are exempted and do not require certification. At the same time, these producers are supposed to keep records and submit the same to a production audit if requested.
It is to be noted that the NOP covers fresh and processed agricultural food products, including crops and livestock. However, it will not cover non-food products that may be sold as organic, including natural fibers,health, and beauty products.
The NOP is divided into three divisions:
- Standards development and review;
- Accreditation, auditing, and training;
- Compliance and enforcement.
However, any person who knowingly sells or labels a product as an organic product which is not produced and handled in accordance with the NOP’s regulation is liable for a penalty of $11,000.