Organic – A Word That Means Something!

Most people do not realize how seriously everyone in the National Organic Program (NOP) takes their participation in what is known as “organic agriculture.” To be organic and to grow organic and to sell anything labeled as organic is governed by laws enacted by Congress. Click on the picture above and it will take you to a website with one page. On that page it shows the % of violations that have been done by those NOP certified organic or by those not certified yet making an organic claim. USDA takes it serious!

Every organic producer in order to sell as an organic producer must be NOP certified unless gross sales are less than $5,000 and even then you must follow the law as if certified. In Texas there are approximately 384 Certified Organic Crop and Livestock Producers.

Every organic buyer, known as a handler, must be certified to handle that organic product before it is finally packaged with an organic label. In Texas there are approximately 405 Certified Organic Handlers.

In order to even use the word “organic” on a product label there are very specific USDA AMS rules listed below:

Can a product be labeled “organic” without being certified? 

  • If you make a product and want to claim that it or its ingredients are organic, your final product probably needs to be certified.
  • If you are not certified, you must not make any organic claim on the principal display panel or use the USDA organic seal anywhere on the package. (see exemption below)
  • You may only, on the information panel, identify the certified organic ingredients as organic and the percentage of organic ingredients.

What do the organic product labeling rules cover? 

  • Covers wording allowed on both the front panel and the information panel of a packaged product:
    • Principal display panel (PDP): portion of the package most likely to be seen by customers at the time of purchase.
    • Information panel (IP): includes ingredient statement (list of ingredients contained in a product, from highest to lowest percentage of final product) and other product information.

So, to say we take the word “ORGANIC” seriously might be an understatement!

Author: Bob Whitney, Regents Fellow & Extension Organic Specialist

Agriculturalist, extension educator and researcher, organic agriculture enthusiast and promoter, international program developer, Christian, husband, father and friend.

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