Today there are more than 18,500 certified organic farms and businesses in the United States alone. Around the world, there are over 25,000 operations in 120 countries certified to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic standards.

With support, organic farmers and businesses have achieved $35 billion annually in U.S. retail sales. With a rigorous certification process, robust standards, and strong enforcement, the USDA Organic Seal has become the gold standard around the world.

Raising the bar

USDA’s rigorous and comprehensive certification process protects organic integrity and ensures that all organic products comply with the organic standards. Organic operations must demonstrate that they are implementing practices that foster the cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity.

"With meaningful standards and a rigorous oversight system, consumers can be confident that the organic label deserves its reputation as a leading global standard."

The USDA organic standards also describe specific production and handling requirements for farms and processors, including the use of approved substances. For example, organic products must be produced using methods that avoid genetically engineered organisms and most synthetic materials, such as pesticides and antibiotics.

Driving demand

USDA also supports the continued growth of organics by developing clear standards that drive consumer demand for organic products. In fact, USDA continually adjusts the organic standards in order to meet the needs of the rapidly growing sector. There are new standards on the horizon related to aquaculture, transition of dairy animals into organic production, pet food, apiculture (bees and honey), and enhanced animal welfare provisions.

USDA accredited certifying agents must verify compliance with organic standards before products can be labeled as USDA organic. Becoming a certified organic farm or processing operation is a multi-step process that requires a written plan, annual on-site farm inspections, label reviews, and sampling and residue testing.

In addition to a rigorous certification process and robust standards, USDA protects the organic label with strong oversight of organic production, processing, and distribution. From farms to retail stores, USDA conducts and coordinates investigations of suspected violations of the organic standards and takes legal action when necessary.

With meaningful standards and a rigorous oversight system, consumers can be confident that the organic label deserves its reputation as a leading global standard.