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NOP

Supporting Organic Integrity with Clear Livestock and Poultry Standards

The mission of the National Organic Program, part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is to protect the integrity of organic products in the U.S. and around the world. This means creating clear and enforceable standards that protect the organic integrity of products from farm to table.  Consumers trust and look for the USDA organic seal because they know that USDA stands behind the standards that it represents.

Today, USDA announced a final rule regarding organic livestock and poultry production practices.  The rule strengthens the organic standards, and ensures that all organic animals live in pasture based systems utilizing production practices that support their well-being and natural behavior. It’s an important step that will strengthen consumer confidence in the USDA organic seal and ensure that organic agriculture continues to provide economic opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and businesses across the country.

Growth and Opportunity in the Organic Sector

Since USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) implemented the organic regulations in 2002, the U.S. organic sector has tripled in size to over 22,000 certified organic operations with over $43 billion in U.S. retail sales.  Demand for organic products is expected to continue growing.  This strong consumer demand outruns supply, providing market opportunities within the organic sector.

USDA offers many resources for organic producers and businesses – including organic certification cost share assistance, organic price reporting, conservation programs, and so much more – to facilitate growth within the organic sector. We also provide assistance to producers transitioning to organic production, and work to facilitate international trade.

U.S. and Mexico Collaborate on Organic Monitoring and Enforcement

As consumer demand for organic products continues to grow around the world, the USDA Organic Seal has become a leading global standard. USDA provides support for the vibrant organic sector, representing a retail market of over $43 billion in the United States alone.  USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is excited to announce another way we are helping organic producers reach new markets and offering consumers additional organic products.

We plan to establish a Joint Organic Compliance Committee in support of a potential organic equivalency arrangement between the United States and Mexico. There is already a robust trade in agricultural products taking place between our two countries: Last year, the United States exported over $100 million of organic food products to Mexico – our third largest agricultural export market – and Mexico supplied the United States with food certified to the U.S. organic standards, including seasonal produce.

Celebrating Stakeholder Diversity is Essential for Success

On behalf of the Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program (NOP), please join us as we continue celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month.  The month-long observance, that occurs every year from September 15 through October 15, celebrates the cultures and traditions of Americans who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico, and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.  At the NOP, increasing our appreciation of Hispanic cultures as well as our connections with Hispanic people are essential for our success.

There is much that we have done and continue to do in serving Hispanic stakeholders.  The USDA organic regulations, as well as the National Organic Program Handbook – which contain USDA organic standards, guidance documents, policy memos and instructions – are available in Spanish.  In addition, our recent Sound and Sensible initiative resources, which are helping make organic certification more accessible, attainable and affordable for small producers and processors, also include resources in Spanish.

El Celebrar la Diversidad de Participantes es Esencial Para el Éxito

De parte del Programa Nacional Orgánico (NOP, por sus siglas en inglés) del Servicio de Comercialización Agrícola (AMS, por sus siglas en inglés), por favor, únase a nosotros a medida que continuamos celebrando el Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana.  La observancia de un mes, realizada todos los años del 15 de septiembre al 15 de octubre, celebra las culturas y tradiciones de los estadounidenses que tienen sus raíces en España, México y países de habla hispana de América Central, América del Sur, y el Caribe.  En el NOP, el aumentar nuestra apreciación de las culturas hispanas igual que nuestras conexiones con los hispanos es esencial para nuestro éxito.

Es mucho lo que hemos hecho y seguimos haciendo para servir participantes hispanos.  Las regulaciones orgánicas del USDA, así como el Manual del Programa Nacional Orgánico - que contienen los estándares orgánicos, documentos de orientación, memorandos de política e instrucciones - están disponibles en español.  Además, nuestra reciente iniciativa orgánica “Sound and Sensible,” que ayuda a que la certificación orgánica sea más accesible, alcanzable y asequible para pequeños productores y procesadores, también incluye recursos en español.

Cultivating Heritage, Freedom & Self-Determination

USDA invited A-dae Romero-Briones, member of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), to be a guest author for this blog. The NOSB provides critical support to the USDA and the organic community.  We thank the NOSB for their commitment to the organic community, and the integrity of the organic label.

In 2012, members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (MBCI) established Choctaw Fresh Produce to help overcome employment and health challenges on their reservation.  Today, by creating jobs and producing healthy foods on tribal lands, Choctaw Fresh Produce is also helping empower and transform their tribal communities.

The MBCI is a Federally-recognized Indian tribe of approximately 10,000 members that reside in eight reservation communities on 35,000 acres of trust land across ten counties in east central Mississippi.  The MBCI are the descendants of the Choctaw that refused to be removed from their ancestral lands and relocated to land in what is now Oklahoma.  Prior to the mass relocations known as the Trails of Tears that began in 1830, the Choctaw were dedicated to agriculture, hunting, and trade over what is now most of Mississippi.

Understanding the USDA Organic Label

Amidst nutrition facts, ingredient lists, and dietary claims on food packages, “organic” might appear as one more piece of information to decipher when shopping for products.  Understanding what the organic label means can help shoppers make informed purchasing choices.

Organic is a labeling term found on products that have been produced using cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that support the cycling of on-farm resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. The National Organic Program – part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service – enforces the organic regulations, ensuring the integrity of the USDA Organic Seal.

A Moment in Time Look at Organic Retail Prices

Consumers can find certified organic products at most grocery stores and demand for organic products continues to increase, with U.S. retail sales valued at more than $43 billion in 2015.  Organic products are grown, raised and produced by over 31,000 certified operations, and many of those operations receive higher prices, or premiums, for their products.

Recently, USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) issued a report entitled Changes in Retail Organic Price Premiums from 2004 to 2010.  The report highlights the retail price premium charged for organic foods compared to conventional products.  For the report, ERS used a virtual shopping basket of 17 products and data collected from Nielsen scanners to calculate the organic prices and how they changed from 2004-2010.

A Conversation with USDA Leader Elanor Starmer

Elanor Starmer is the Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which facilitates the strategic marketing of agricultural products in the U.S. and internationally. Prior to becoming AMS Administrator, Starmer was a Senior Advisor to Secretary Tom Vilsack and has been with the department since 2011. This interview focused on AMS’s National Organic Program.

“The USDA isn’t one or the other, it’s all of the above. We serve organic producers, non-organic producers and everyone else as well as we possibly can.” – Elanor Starmer

Local and Organic Food Shopping - Finding the Best Price

When comparing product prices between farmers markets and retail stores, local products are competitively priced - within a 10 percent price range - at farmers markets a majority of the time, even less expensive for some foods.  Local, certified organic products at farmers markets are almost always competitively priced when compared to prices at retail stores.

These are just some of the findings from a recent project conducted by the Local Foods Data Tracking Program, a joint effort between USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Market News division and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets (VAAFM).  Prices were collected on a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as a selection of meat and poultry products grown and sold in Vermont.