Natural Foods Merchandiser

NOP: How it came about

Although the final national organic standards were published in 2000, you could say that they were more than 10 years in the making. Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act in 1990 as part of the Farm Bill. This act mandated the formation of the National Organic Standards Board to advise the secretary of agriculture in setting standards, which the National Organic Program would then enforce.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture appoints the 15 NOSB members. The current board is comprised of four farmers/growers, two handlers/processors, one retailer, one scientist, three consumer/public-interest advocates, three environmentalists and one USDA-accredited certifying agent. Members come from all four U.S. regions. They now serve five-year terms and sit on various NOSB committees.

During the 1990s, the NOSB members recommended organic standards to the USDA. To determine the organic rules, the USDA also reviewed state, private and foreign organic certification programs and asked for public input. The USDA published the final organic rule on Dec. 21, 2000, and it went into effect April 21, 2001. Producers and processors had 18 months to comply with new standards. The organic rule was fully implemented on Oct. 21, 2002.

The NOP, which enforces the rule, is a marketing program housed within the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service.

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