In the USA, certified organic products are produced in compliance with United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) regulations. As a regulatory term, 'organic' is a specified way of managing food and agricultural fiber production and handling systems. NOP regulations focus on the integrity of the soil and the product.
Producer and handler compliance is verified by independent certifying agents that are accredited by the USDA. Annual inspections, detailed record keeping, self monitoring, and periodic testing ensure that growers and handlers meet regulatory standards.
Organic crop production responds to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Organic production relies on biological and manual control of pests and weeds; persistent toxic pesticides and herbicides are avoided.
Organic production prohibits:
Organic handling operations prevent commingling of organic and non-organic products and, for purposes like cleaning and hygiene, use only organic materials or products from an approved materials list. Both the ingredients and facility where the food is processed must be certified. This means that buildings and areas where ingredients are stored, equipment, and product packaging all must meet NOP requirements.
Organic handling prohibits:
Organic product labels always include the name of the organization that certified the product. This assures consumers that the product was grown and handled in compliance with organic regulations.
When shopping, look for the USDA Organic seal on product packaging, labels, and signs to quickly identify certified organic products. In some instances, the Wedge uses yellow-colored "Certified Organic" stickers to call out organic products that otherwise lack organic identification; for example, some re-packed organic produce items.
The Wedge's Organic Certificate shows everything that is certified organic at the Wedge.
Minnesota organic farmers report observing or experiencing the following environmental benefits, which they attribute to their organic farming practices:
more wildlife, especially songbirds, game birds, frogs, gophers, bees, and other insects
greater diversity of wildlife
wildlife preferred their crops compared to those on neighboring conventionally-managed land
reduced erosion and/or improved soil tilth, health, and earthworm populations
less runoff or better water-holding capacity of soil
2009 Minnesota Organic Farmer Survey, Minnesota Department of Agriculture