Materials Compliance

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Material Used in Organic Farming (PDF 31.8k)
Overview of the substances used by organic farmers for fertility, pest control, and animal health with a summary of compliance issues.

NOSB Information (PDF 330k)
Mission, vision, and duties of the NOSB.

National List Materials Review Process
A flowchart that shows how materials are petitioned, reviewed, and added to the National List.

EPA Pesticide Registration (PR) Notice
Labeling of pesticides that comply with the NOP Rule.

National List Information
The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 requires the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances which identifies synthetic substances that may be used, and the nonsynthetic substances that cannot be used, in organic production and handling operations.

OMRI Lists
A user-friendly list of substances allowed, restricted, and prohibited for use in organic production based on the NOP Rule.  Visit their website to learn more about OMRI Products and Generic Materials lists.

Washington State Department of Agriculture Lists
WSDA Brand Name Materials List
The WSDA Brand Name Materials List is a list of brand name products that have been evaluated to determine that they comply with organic standards. Products listed on the BNML are for use in organic production.

WSDA Materials Lists and Materials Registration Main Page

Frequently Asked Questions About Materials Used in Organic Production

Answers to basic questions about inputs used in organic production.

What farm inputs are allowed and what materials are prohibited in organic production?
In general, the NOP allows natural (non-synthetic) substances and prohibits synthetic substances, unless they appear on the National List.

What is the National List?
The National List contains the allowed synthetic and prohibited natural (non-synthetic) substances that are exceptions to the general rule for organic production. It is not a comprehensive list of all approved materials, rather it can be described as an “open” list since it contains only 1) synthetic materials allowed for use in crop and livestock production and 2) non-synthetic (natural) materials prohibited for use in crop and livestock production.

Where can I find the National List?
The National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances is part of the NOP regulations (also called the NOP Rule found at sections 7 CFR 205.600 – 205.606.

Who determines if a specific product is acceptable for use on an organic farm?

In most cases, the certification agencies determine whether or not the use of a given input on an farm complies with organic standards.

Should an organic farmer plan on what inputs to use in the coming year?

Organic farmers should anticipate production needs and determine the practices and inputs needed to achieve that production. All fertilizers and pesticides that a farmer intends to use over a season must be included in the farm plan. In all cases, a certified farmer should have any products used on the farm are approved by his/her certification agent before the input is used.

Are there any further restrictions on the use of fertilizers and pesticides in organic farming?
Farmers need to be aware of the limitations of the National List when it applies to farm inputs. Producers may only use substances listed for crop use on crops. For example, phosphoric acid is permitted in livestock sanitation, but not as a fertilizer. A material listed for a specific use is restricted to that use, i.e. soap is listed for insect control but not disease control. Some materials have specific restrictions, for instance - copper must be used in a manner that minimizes accumulation in the soil.

What are the record keeping requirements when a farmer uses a material?

Farmers are required to document all products applied to crop and soil. One must know all of the ingredients in order to determine whether or not an input complies. Certifiers will review products themselves or rely on an outside service.

If a fertilizer is labeled ‘organic,’ will a farmer be able to use it on certified organic land?
Fertilizer labeling is regulated by state laws, most of which define organic in a way that is not compatible with organic standards. Caution is needed in evaluating fertilizer labeled as organic, as it might include prohibited synthetics such as urea or sewage sludge.

Can pesticides be used on an organic farm?

Most pesticides are prohibited for use in organic production, but a number are allowed with restrictions. In crop production, pesticides must have active ingredients that are either non-synthetic or on the National List, and all inert ingredients must be non-synthetic or classified as List 4 – (inerts of minimal concern) by the EPA.

What feed additives and supplements are permitted?
Natural (non-synthetic) feed additives and supplements are permitted, as are synthetic substances that are on the National List. These include synthetic vitamins and minerals, which are limited to the amount necessary for adequate nutrition. Slaughter by-products are prohibited for feeding to mammals and poultry, and urea and manure re-feeding is prohibited for all livestock. Synthetic amino acids are not included on the National List, with the exception of a temporary allowance granted for methionine for use in poultry until October 2005.

What are we supposed to do when we need to treat a sick animal?
Animals that are sick must be treated. A producer who withholds treatment from a sick animal to maintain its organic status can be decertified. If a synthetic animal drug used to treat an animal does not appear on the National List, then the animal must be diverted to conventional channels.

Are any parasiticides allowed?
Only one parasicitide, Ivermectin is on the National List. It is restricted for use in dairy and breeding stock only. Parasiticides are categorically prohibited on slaughter stock.

Will it be possible to tell if a product meets organic standards just by reading the label?
The EPA has implemented a new voluntary labeling program to help identify products that meet NOP requirements. Approved registered pesticide in this voluntary program can include the phrase “for organic production” on their labels. Not all products that are compliant with organic rules will be so identified.
How is the National List amended?

The process can be described in five discrete steps: Petition; TAP Review; Public Comment; NOSB Recommendation; and NOP Rulemaking. The attached flow chart helps to visualize the process.

  1. Petition
    A petition is submitted to the NOP to either add or remove a substance on the National List. The NOP reviews the petition for completeness, and sends the petition to the NOSB.  During its initial evaluation, the NOP may also consult with other regulatory agencies if the petitioned substance is subject to their regulations. More information can be found at NOP's website.
  2. TAP Review
    The NOSB Materials Committee reviews the petition and determines if the petitioned substance qualifies for inclusion on the National List.  If so, it then recommends a Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) review of the substance by a contractor who will evaluate the scientific and technical issues associated with use of the substance in organic production.  Before or after the TAP review is conducted, the NOSB may request additional information from the petitioner.
  3. Public Comment
    Upon completion, the TAP review is posted for public comment and the material is placed on the agenda for the next public NOSB meeting.
  4. NOSB Recommendation
    Prior to the NOSB meeting, the appropriate committee (crops, livestock, or processing) meets and develops a recommendation, documenting their reasoning on forms that outline the criteria for material review.  At the NOSB meeting, the substance and issues raised in the TAP review and by public comment are discussed and evaluated.  The NOSB then votes on inclusion of the substance as allowed or prohibited, with a two thirds majority vote required to make a recommendation.  Annotations that place source and use restrictions are often included within the recommendation.
  5. NOP Rulemaking
    The NOP takes the NOSB recommendations through a formal rulemaking, if the recommendation is accepted as consistent with the OFPA.  The recommendation is structured as regulatory text and assigned a Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) section number and published in the Federal Register as a proposed amendment to the National List with a call for public comment.  Following review of public comment and any changes in the regulatory language arising from this review, the NOP publishes a final rule in the Federal Register.  At this point the substance is officially added to the National List.

How long does it take to amend the National List?
A substance may be removed from consideration at any step of the process. However, steps 1 to 4 are usually completed for all petitions within 12 to 18 months of the filing date, with a minimum of about 145 days needed. Once a recommendation to list a petitioned substance reaches the NOP, it technically enters the rulemaking process (Step 5).  The first amendments to the National List became final in the Fall of 2003, over three years for some of the petitions filed. The shortest time for a petition to make it on the National List was approximately two years.

What is the status of a substance recommended by the NOSB?

The NOSB’s recommendation does not change the status, so that if the substance is not on the National List and synthetic, it is still prohibited. A non-synthetic substance not on the National List would still be allowed, as would a synthetic substance on the National List that the NOSB has recommended be removed.