What does “Certified Organic” mean?

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Certified Organic Soil Amendments and Fertilizers

You may have seen the “OMRI®” label on packages. It indicates that a product is on the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) list of approved products that comply with the National Organics Program (NOP) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic standards. That’s a mouthful!

The collection of products with OMRI status reaches into the thousands and covers many categories: compost, potting soil, manure, fertilizers, minerals, oils, fish products, guano, pesticides, fungicides and more. The list even contains some synthetic products!  

Not Certified But Probably Organic

Lots of producers of soil amendments, fertilizers and pesticides bypass the red tape and cost involved in gaining OMRI listing for their products. I was one of these folks a few years back when I registered a soil amendment in the state of California. I produced an organic product but did not seek organic status because the process is costly, regulation-driven and time consuming.

Not all Organic CROPS are Certified Organic!

Similarly, many farms that grow organic crops do not want to pay the money or complete the paperwork to earn organic certification. In the United States, farms that grow certified organic crops are regularly audited by third parties that abide by standards from the NOP and the USDA.

I visit a farm that chooses not to pursue organic certification. Their website uses the term “organic” but not in an official, certified way. They practice “sustainable agriculture” and operate much like a certified organic farm – utilizing compost, planting cover crops and applying less toxic pesticides when needed. They do supplement with synthetic fertilizers on occasion. Did you know certified organic farms can use synthetic fertilizers and soil amendments when justified?

Just as intriguing, farms are allowed to grow traditional and certified organic crops close together in adjacent fields. Once harvested, both types can be stored next to each other in the warehouse.

Tell us what you think about the concept of ORGANIC in our forums!

120 thoughts on “What does “Certified Organic” mean?

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