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What in the Organic?

Anyone else thoroughly confused on what the difference is between 100% Organic, Organic, made with Organic, and not seeing a label but seeing organic ingredients listed on the item. Also what does this all mean for farmers who are producing these products? Today we are going to dive into this world together.

So to get to download on organic farming, I went straight to the root of information. On the USDA website I found the Organic Labeling Standards page. After poking around for a bit I was happy to unearth the true definition of these terms:

“100 percent organic” can be used to label any product that contains 100 percent organic ingredients (excluding salt and water, which are considered natural). Most raw, unprocessed farm products can be designated “100 percent organic.” Likewise, many value-added farm products that have no added ingredients—such as grain flours, rolled oats, etc.—can also be labeled “100 percent organic.”

Principal display panel: May include USDA organic seal and/or 100 percent organic claim.

Information Panel: Must identify organic ingredients (e.g., organic dill) or via asterisk or other mark.


“Organic” can be used to label any product that contains a minimum of 95 percent organic ingredients (excluding salt and water). Up to 5 percent of the ingredients may be nonorganic agricultural products and/or nonagricultural products that are on the National List.  Nonorganic agricultural products and several nonagricultural products on the National List may only be used if they are not commercially available as organic.

Principal display panel: May include USDA organic seal and/or organic claim.

Information Panel: Must identify organic ingredients (e.g., organic dill) or via asterisk or other mark.

Made with Organic ______

“Made with Organic ______” can be used to label a product that contains at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding salt and water). There are a number of detailed constraints regarding the ingredients that comprise the nonorganic portion.

Principal display panel: May state “made with organic (insert up to three ingredients or ingredient categories).” Must not include USDA organic seal anywhere, represent finished product as organic, or state “made with organic ingredients.”

Information Panel: Must identify organic ingredients (e.g., organic dill) or via asterisk or other mark.

Specific Ingredient Listings

The specific organic ingredients may be listed in the ingredient statement of products containing less than 70 percent organic contents—for example, “Ingredients: water, barley, beans, organic tomatoes, salt.”

Principal display panel: Must not include USDA organic seal anywhere or the word “organic” on principal display panel.

Information Panel: May only list certified organic ingredients as organic in the ingredient list and the percentage of organic ingredients. Remaining ingredients are not required to follow the USDA organic regulations.

Exemptions & Exclusions

Producers who market less than $5,000 worth of organic products annually are not required to apply for organic certification. They must, however, comply with the organic production and handling requirements of the regulations, including recordkeeping (records must be kept for at least 3 years). The products from such noncertified operations cannot be used as organic ingredients in processed products produced by another operation; such noncertified products also are not allowed to display the USDA certified organic seal."

Wow! Who knew there were so many options for people to label their products organic. What really caught my eye is that small farmers don't have to pay to claim organic if their following the other regulations and making less the 5,000 a year! However what are those regulations?

Turns out they have a whole 64 page guide helping farmers understand Organic Farming!

You might say "Yikes I do not want to read 64 pages!" No worries there is plenty of other online sources that are linked into the doc that have videos and is more hands on material to learn from. However you might lose a little content along the way since the USDA doc does have all the nitty gritty details.

Now I wonder what does a plant farmer make on average?

People who grow our food definitely deserve to make more then 5,000 a year. According to the USDA in 2016 farmers considered to be fulltime made an average of 60,000-70,000. While half of the farmers in America are making less then 10,000 a year from farming and work a off-farm job to make the ends meet.

Yes one of the many reason why farming is such a tough and rewarding career. However those who are willing to hold themselves to a higher standard deserves to supported in their sustainable practices. Join me next time as I explore agricultural subsidies and how they effect the average farmer. Until then stay Healthy!

Jessi Geist

Brave New Life Project

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