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Current Issues

22 September 2010 : The First Organic Program Handbook

“The First Organic Program Handbook” 


 The First Organic Program Handbook prepared by the National Organic Program (NOP) was published on September, 2, 2010.


According to the Program Handbook, its purpose is to provide those who own, manage, or certify organic operations with guidance and instructions that can assist them in complying with the National Organic Program (NOP) regulations.


The handbook is divided into 2 parts including Level 1 Guidance Documents and Level 2 Instruction Documents.


The first part, Level 1 Guidance Documents describes interpretations of NOP statutory or regulatory requirements, changes in interpretation or policy, or address unusually complex or highly controversial issues.


Meanwhile, Level 2 Instruction Documents. Level 2 Instruction Documents clarify existing NOP procedures. The intention of the instructions is to deliberately inform certifying agents and certified operations on best practices for conducting business related to certification, accreditation, international activities, and compliance and enforcement. Unless otherwise noted, Level 2 Instruction documents are effective immediately upon their issuance and publication in the, Program Handbook.


Regarding legal effect, the mentioned above Guidance and Instruction Documents do not establish legally enforceable rights or responsibilities and are not legally binding on the public or the program. Somewhat, the documents explain how the Organic Foods Production Act and its implementing regulations apply to certain regulated activities.


Providing a uniform method for operations to conform, The Guidance and Instruction Documents is able to decrease the burden of developing their own methods and simplify audits and inspections. Furthermore, alternative methods which comply with the Act and its implementation regulations are acceptable.


“The handbook will provide guidance to the organic agricultural community to enable them to carry out production and handling processes in a consistent manner,” said Miles McEvoy, NOP deputy administrator. “It will also reduce the burden on industry participants as they work to comply or verify compliance with the NOP regulations.”


The Organic Program Handbook is accessible at http://www.ams.usda.gov/NOPProgramHandbook