The National organic Program (NOP), a stand-alone certification program developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), came into effect in October 2002 to regulate organic production, processing and marketing in the US.

NOP certification is required for you to access the US market. Please note that Canada and USDA have organic equivalency arrangement. All operations of the supply chain except for operations that don’t produce/process/repack products need to be NOP accredited, this would include the following:
  • Producers
  • Processors/Contract processor
  • Re-packer

The USDA organic regulations recognize four categories of organic products:

  • Crops: A plant that is grown to be harvested as food, livestock feed, fiber, or used to add nutrients to the field.
  • Livestock: Animals that can be used for food or in the production of food, fiber, or feed.
  • Processed products: Items that have been handled and packaged (i.e. chopped carrots) or combined, processed, and packaged (i.e. soup).
  • Wild crops: Plants from a growing site that is not cultivated.

All raw certified organic products may be labeled with the USDA organic seal.

Certification Process

  1. Submit USDA NOP Application Form.
  2. Please ensure you include clear information on how you will identify and segregate NOP vs. ACO vs. non-organic cattle and details of all livestock health treatments (internal and external) for the past three years.
  3. Submit the following forms depending of your operation:
    • Organic Management Plan (Organic Farm Plan/ Organic Livestock Plan /Organic Handling Plan) Please include full paddock records that note all inputs for the last three years.
    • Statuary Declaration
    • Livestock Inventory
    • Livestock Feed Record sheet (please complete this for the last three years, including all feed and any supplements)
  4. Document Review – ACO office need to receive these documents in the office for review prior to audit allocation taking place, and as part of the review will assess your management and inputs for the last three years. ACO office need to be able to verify compliance with NOP standards for the last three years in order to be able to go ahead with the audit and certification process. For livestock to be NOP eligible ACO office need to be able to verify that:
    • That they have had access only to NOP eligible land from the last trimester of pregnancy onwards
    • 100% of agricultural origin feed must be NOP, and any non-agricultural origin feed or supplements must be allowed under the NOP standard
    • Any animal health products used (internal or external) must be reassessed to NOP Standards
    • Processors – Clear segregation procedures should be in place to identify NOP products from ACO and non-organic products. Products sold, labeled, or represented as “100 percent organic”, “organic or “made with organic ingredients” must use certified organic ingredients.
  5. Initial on-site audit – Pending the successful completion of the initial document review an on-site audit will be allocated to the operation. The on-site audit can also coincide with the annual ACO audit.
  6. Critical Review Committee (CRC) Review – audit reports are then reviewed by CRC for compliance with the NOP standard.
  7. Licence Agreement – pending the successful completion of the CRC review a USDA Licence Agreement will be sent. Licence Agreements contain Corrective Action Requests that need to be responded to before certification/certificates can be issued.

You can access the NOP standard here.

You can access the National Organic Program Handbook: Guidance and Instructions for Accredited Certifying Agents and Certified Operations here.

In January of each year, the NOP receives information on certified operations from certifying agents. A list of worldwide NOP certified operators can be found here