USDA Implements Additional Testing for Organic Producers
Before 1990, organic food production practices were not federally regulated in the United States, with standards varying from state to state. During this time, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) appointed private agencies to conduct initial inspections to certify production facilities as organic producers. Once granted certification, facilities were left unchecked as they continued to produce organic goods.
The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990 authorized the USDA’s National Organic Program to establish nationwide standards for the production, handling and distribution of organically grown agricultural products. The certification process standards set forth in the Act include the regulation of allowable pesticides and chemicals, labeling standards, harvesting procedures as well as the transportation and trade of organic products.
Since the implementation of the OFPA, the Organic Trade Association has shown a spike in U.S. sales of organic food and beverages from $1 billion in 1990 to $26.7 billion in 2010. As the demand for organic products grows, the USDA’s role in upholding the integrity of organic practices further develops.
As of January 1, 2013, the USDA mandates that accredited agents annually perform residue tests on at least five percent of the facilities they have certified to ensure prohibited substances and methods are not used during the production of organic foods. If a farmer or business sells or labels a product as organic when it does not meet USDA standards, they can be fined up to $11,000 per violation.
These additional checks and balances will help the USDA reduce the misrepresentation of organic goods and hold organic producers accountable for the products they distribute.