The organic seal was introduced in 2002 and assures that
products labeled organic meet stringent standards established by
the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Under the USDA
regulations, in order for a product to be labeled "USDA certified
organic" and gain the organic seal it must contain a minimum of 95%
The system for verifying and regulating certified organic
products is designed to protect consumers, farmers, manufactures,
and the environment.
The USDA certification process is very arduous:
- Growers seeking certification have to study the organic
standards, and farm facilities and production methods must comply
with the standards.
- Extensive paperwork must document farm history and current
practices and usually must include results of soil and water
- A written annual production plan must be submitted, detailing
every aspect of farming: seed sources, field and crop locations,
fertilization and pest control activities, harvest methods, storage
Annual on-farm inspections are a part of the certification
process, with a physical tour, examination of records, and an oral
interview. Also, short-notice or surprise inspections can be
made, and specific tests (e.g., soil, water, plant tissue) may be
requested. For first-time farm USDA certification, the soil
must meet basic requirements of being free from use of prohibited
substances (synthetic chemicals, etc.) for three years.
Certification for food producers is similar. Every aspect
of the production, including ingredients, transport, processing,
and packaging are examined and need to adhere to strict
The USDA certified organic seal is earned with a lot of
effort. The certifiers take their job very seriously, and for
that, they have gained the public's trust.