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Jennifer Chait

Jennifer's Organic Business Blog

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Defining Organic Retail

Saturday May 31, 2014

Defining organic retail can be tricky, mainly because organic retailers aren't required to obtain certification and far fewer clear-cut guidelines have been set for organic retailers.

Still, organic retail establishments, including restaurants, do have some characteristics such as...

  • Almost always exempt from certification.
  • May choose to become voluntarily certified organic.
  • You may not use the organic seal unless you get voluntarily certified.
  • Organic retailers still must keep records.
  • If you do any of the following; cooking, baking, curing, heating, canning, drying, mixing, grinding, churning, separating, extracting, slaughtering, cutting, fermenting, distilling, preserving, dehydrating, and freezing, you're an organic processor NOT just a retailer.

Learn more: What is Organic Retail?

Organic Seed Webinar Coming Up

Saturday May 31, 2014

Interested in organic seeds? Yes?! The you probably want to join eOrganic and the Organic Seed Alliance for their upcoming webinar on "Understanding the NOP Seed Rule and Sourcing Organic Seed." The webinar is on Friday, June 6, 2014, at 11 am Eastern Time.

If you're an organic certifier, inspector, or organic operation, the webinar is a good fit. It's also FREE, though advance registration is required.

What's going to be covered?

Register here.

Organic Agriculture & Carbon Emissions

Saturday May 31, 2014

Rodale Institute's new white paper, Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change, is worth a read if you're interested in how organics may help combat climate change.

The paper notes that "regenerative organic agriculture," over conventional practices, helps keep photosynthesized carbon dioxide in the soil instead of in the atmosphere. The paper cites a whopping 75 studies from peer-reviewed journals, including its own 33-year Farm Systems Trial. Rodale Institute also says that if all cropland was to be converted to organic regenerative model 40% of annual CO2 emissions would be sequestered, in turn helping to combat the world's yearly carbon dioxide emissions.

See the white paper here.

Can Synthetic Fertilizers be Used in Organic Production?

Saturday May 31, 2014

Many people think organic agriculture is free from all pesticides and chemicals. That's not exactly true though. The National List allows for some pesticides and chemicals, just not the same harmful ones used in conventional agriculture.

Some synthetic fertilizers contain chemical substances not allowed in organic agriculture, but organic producers may use natural, non-synthetic fertilizers found on the National List. To learn more about these allowed and not-allowed fertilizers read: Can Synthetic Fertilizers be Used in Organic Production?

How can the Organic Materials Review Institute help your organic business?

Saturday May 31, 2014

If you're not familiar with the Organic Materials Review Institute, it might be good to brush up.

The Organic Materials Review Institute, or OMRI, is a useful 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that can help your organic business. Their main goal is to determine which input products are allowed or not allowed in organic production and processing and they maintain an extensive list of these inputs. Furthermore, OMRI provides technical support and training for professionals who work in the organic industry, offers product listings for suppliers, gives advice and guidance on evaluating products and educate folks on organic compliance.

Learn all about OMRI.

Four Ways to Assess Your Soil Health

Saturday May 31, 2014

If you're an aspiring organic farmer, you need quite a few skill sets, but one of the most useful is being able to understand what makes healthy organic soil. First learn about basic soil nutrients on the organic farm, then check out the link below to learn how to assess your soil health before you ever plant crops.

Read more: Four Ways to Assess Your Soil Health

New National Organic Program Handbook Revisions

Saturday May 31, 2014

The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) recently announced two new revisions to the National Organic Program Handbook.

The new updates include one update to the NOP 2024, Information Submission Requirements for Certifying Agents. There have been some changes in regulations for submission of residue testing, and the update further reduces duplication with other NOP instructions. The second update is a revised Review Audit checklist (NOP 2005-6) that, "Summarizes all aspects of the accreditation assessment, and the checklists and worksheets provide a standard format for auditors to record evidence of compliance during on-site assessments."

What are NOP Temporary Variances?

Wednesday April 30, 2014

National Organic Program (NOP) temporary variances are simply practices or requirements that vary from set production and handling requirements of the USDA organic regulations 205.203 through 205.207, 205.236 through 205.240 and 205.270 through 205.272 for a specific time period.

The Administrator grants these temporary variances for various natural disasters, damage to a business, and sometimes for research or practice trials. If you want to learn more about how to request a variance, what happens once you do and why it might be denied, check out the article link below.

+ Learn more: What are NOP Temporary Variances?

USDA is Updating the National Farmers' Market Directory

Wednesday April 30, 2014

If you're one of the many organic producers who sells organic products at one of the 8,000+ farmers markets across the country, The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is asking for your help in updating the National Farmers Market Directory.

Though useful, the National Farmers Market Directory is only as good as the information it contains, which can be sketchy as the Directory relies on self-reported input from farmers market stakeholders. If you sell at markets and you're not on the list, it's a mistake. This is a very comprehensive and up-to-date source of information about farmers markets nationwide that consumers see. You can encourage your market manager to add or update your market listings in time for the peak market season.

NOTE: Entries submitted from April 5 through May 5 will be published in the Directory by May 19, and updates submitted from May 6 to June 23 will be published in the Directory by July 7. The complete directory will be released in time for National Farmers Market Week, during the first week of August.

+ Add or Update Your Farmers Market Information in the USDA National Farmers Market Directory NOW

Comments Needed on Draft Guidance for Post-Harvest Handling of Organic Products

Wednesday April 30, 2014

Just a quick reminder: There's currently a notice of draft guidance (pdf) on substances used in post-harvest handling of organics available to comment on.

The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has a draft guidance document available now that's intended for use by accredited certifying agents and certified operations and exempt operations. The full guidance document is entitled: Substances Used in Post-Harvest Handling of Organic Products (NOP 5023). The National Organic Program (NOP) is seeking comments on this draft on or before June 24, 2014.

You can leave a comment at Regulations.gov or by mail. Send any mail comments to Docket No. APHIS-2009-0047, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.

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