Organic Animal Feed
In 1990, the Congress of the United States passed the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). The OFPA required the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop national standards for organically produced agricultural products to assure consumers that agricultural products marketed as organic meet consistent, uniform standards. This law and the National Organic Program (NOP) regulations require that agricultural products labeled as organic originate from farms or handling operations certified by a State or private entity that has been accredited by USDA.
The NOP is a marketing program housed within the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. It is important to note that neither the OFPA nor the NOP regulations address food safety or nutrition. "Organic" is simply a labeling term that refers to an agricultural product that is produced in accordance with the OFPA and the NOP regulations.
What's in the NOP regulations?
- The regulations prohibit the use of genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, and sewage sludge in organic production and handling. As a general rule, all natural (non-synthetic) substances are allowed in organic production and all synthetic substances are prohibited. The National List of Allowed Synthetic and Prohibited Non-Synthetic Substances, a section in the regulations, contains the specific exceptions to the rule.
- Animals raised on an organic operation must be fed organic feed and given access to the outdoors. They are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.
- Labeling standards are based on the percentage of organic ingredients in a product.
- Certification standards establish the requirements that organic production and handling operations must meet to become accredited by USDA-accredited certifying agents. Farms and handling operations that sell less than $5,000 a year in organic agricultural products are exempt from certification. They may label their products organic if they abide by the standards, but they cannot display the USDA Organic Seal. Retail operations, such as grocery stores and restaurants, do not have to be certified.
- Accreditation standards establish the requirements an applicant must meet in order to become a USDA-accredited certifying agent.
- Imported agricultural products may be sold in the United States if they are certified by USDA-accredited certifying agents. USDA has accredited certifying agents in several foreign countries, and has applications from several more.
All animal feeds, including pet foods, are subject to Michigan's Commercial Feed Law and Commercial Feed Regulations. They are also subject to the OFPA and the NOP regulations with respect to their certification and labeling if they are to be marketed as organic.
To learn more about the National Organic Program regulations, visit the National Organic Program's Internet site: http:.//www.ams.usda.gov/nop
To learn how the regulations apply to feed for food-producing animals, see: http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/NOP/standards/LabelReg.html
For those seeking assistance with organic pet food labeling, the best guidance currently available can be found in recommendations published in the April 7, 2006 interim report of the National Organic Program's Organic Pet Food Task Force (PFTF). This task force included individuals experienced in organic and conventional pet food manufacture, consultants with organic expertise, as well as state and federal regulatory authorities. The PFTF will continue to work further on evaluating any conflicts with state requirements, as embodied in the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) model Pet and Specialty Pet Food regulations. Organic pet food manufacturers will have to comply with both the NOP regulations and existing state pet food regulations, so the goal will be to reconcile any conflicts and propose guidance for the AAFCO officials in interpreting organic claims.
A complete copy of the PFTF's report may be found at http://www.ams.usda.gov/nosb/meetings/OrgPetFood.pdf