Ann H. Baier
NCAT Agriculture Specialist
© NCAT June 2010,
revised per Amendments published Feb. 17, 2010,
in 75 FR 7192. Effective date: June 17, 2010.
This collection of standards from the USDA's National Organic Program (NOP) provides the reader with key standards relevant to certified organic livestock production. Two similar publications are available from ATTRA for crop production (all ruminant livestock producers must produce pasture) [HTML] [PDF/455K] and handling of organic products [HTML] [PDF/693K].
Organic Standards are subject to revision or amendment. Please check the National Organic Program (NOP) website for the most current version of the Rule. From the National Organic Program (NOP) homepage, go to NOP Regulations, then click on Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (eCFR) (Standards). The link to the standards is current, but is subject to change when revisions are made to the NOP website.
This publication contains verbatim excerpts of selected organic standards of standards relevant to organic livestock producers. It is intended to provide a handy reference to USDA's National Organic Program (NOP) Final Rule. Standards relevant to production of organic crops and handling of organic agricultural products may be found in two separate ATTRA publications.
While this publication contains most of the key standards that directly address livestock production, it is not a complete collection of all the standards with which livestock producers must comply. For instance, all producers of ruminant livestock must also manage pasture, and so must also follow crop production standards as they apply to pasture and other livestock feed produced on farm. Many livestock producers also do some handling activities, such as cooling and storage of milk, washing and packing of eggs or slaughter of meat animals. Please review the organic standards in their entirety and check with an organic certifying agent (certifier) to be sure that you are aware of and familiar with all the regulations that apply to your type of operation. Complete standards for organic crop production, livestock production and handling of agricultural products, as well as requirements for the inspection process and management of certifying agents, can be found on the USDA website. Please see the text box above for instructions for finding the link.
Organic standards are set forth under the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service 7 CFR Part 205. The 7 refers to Title 7: Agriculture — one of 50 areas within the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), and Part 205 is the National Organic Program (NOP). The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), passed by congress in 1990, required creation of USDA's National Organic Program (NOP) to set consistent, uniform national standards for the production and handling of organic agricultural products. The NOP oversees mandatory certification of production and handling of all products to be marketed or represented as organic within the United States.
Producers who wish to market their products as USDA Certified Organic must meet NOP standards and have their operation certified by a USDA-accredited organic certifying agent or certifier. You can choose your certifier, and fill out their application and organic system plan forms for organic production and handling activities. Details of this process are described in ATTRA's publication entitled Organic Certification Process.
Subpart B — Applicability
Subpart C — Organic Production and Handling Requirements
Subpart D — Labels, Labeling, and Market Information
Subpart G — Administrative
The National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances
Subpart A — Definitions
This is one of three ATTRA publications that excerpt USDA National Organic Program Regulations (Standards):
(a) A certified operation must maintain records concerning the production, harvesting, and handling of agricultural products that are or that are intended to be sold, labeled, or represented as "100 percent organic," "organic," or "made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))."
(b) Such records must:
(c) The certified operation must make such records available for inspection and copying during normal business hours by authorized representatives of the Secretary, the applicable State program's governing State official, and the certifying agent.
(a) The producer or handler of a production or handling operation, except as exempt or excluded under §205.101, intending to sell, label, or represent agricultural products as "100 percent organic," "organic," or "made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))" must develop an organic production or handling system plan that is agreed to by the producer or handler and an accredited certifying agent. An organic system plan must meet the requirements set forth in this section for organic production or handling. An organic production or handling system plan must include:
(b) A producer may substitute a plan prepared to meet the requirements of another Federal, State, or local government regulatory program for the organic system plan: Provided, That, the submitted plan meets all the requirements of this subpart.
(a) Livestock products that are to be sold, labeled, or represented as organic must be from livestock under continuous organic management from the last third of gestation or hatching: Except, That:
(b) The following are prohibited:
(c) The producer of an organic livestock operation must maintain records sufficient to preserve the identity of all organically managed animals and edible and non-edible animal products produced on the operation. [65 FR 80637, Dec. 21, 2000, as amended at 71 FR 32807, June 7, 2006]
(a) The producer of an organic livestock operation must provide livestock with a total feed ration composed of agricultural products, including pasture and forage, that are organically produced and handled by operations certified to the NOP, except as provided in §205.236(a)(2)(i), except, that, synthetic substances allowed under §205.603 and non-synthetic substances not prohibited under §205.604 may be used as feed additives and feed supplements, Provided, That, all agricultural ingredients included in the ingredients list, for such additives and supplements, shall have been produced and handled organically.
(b) The producer of an organic operation must not:
(c) During the grazing season, producers shall:
(d) Ruminant livestock producers shall:
(a) The producer must establish and maintain preventive livestock health care practices, including:
(b) When preventive practices and veterinary biologics are inadequate to prevent sickness, a producer may administer synthetic medications: Provided, that, such medications are allowed under §205.603. Parasiticides allowed under §205.603 may be used on:
(c) The producer of an organic livestock operation must not:
(a) The producer of an organic livestock operation must establish and maintain year-round livestock living conditions which accommodate the health and natural behavior of animals, including:
(b) The producer of an organic livestock operation may provide temporary confinement or shelter for an animal because of:
(c) The producer of an organic livestock operation may, in addition to the times permitted under §205.239(b), temporarily deny a ruminant animal pasture or outdoor access under the following conditions:
(d) Ruminant slaughter stock, typically grain finished, shall be maintained on pasture for each day that the finishing period corresponds with the grazing season for the geographical location: Except, that, yards, feeding pads, or feedlots may be used to provide finish feeding rations. During the finishing period, ruminant slaughter stock shall be exempt from the minimum 30 percent DMI requirement from grazing. Yards, feeding pads, or feedlots used to provide finish feeding rations shall be large enough to allow all ruminant slaughter stock occupying the yard, feeding pad, or feed lot to feed simultaneously without crowding and without competition for food. The finishing period shall not exceed one-fifth (1/5) of the animal's total life or 120 days, whichever is shorter.
(e) The producer of an organic livestock operation must manage manure in a manner that does not contribute to contamination of crops, soil, or water by plant nutrients, heavy metals, or pathogenic organisms and optimizes recycling of nutrients and must manage pastures and other outdoor access areas in a manner that does not put soil or water quality at risk.
The producer of an organic livestock operation must, for all ruminant livestock on the operation, demonstrate through auditable records in the organic system plan, a functioning management plan for pasture.
(a) Pasture must be managed as a crop in full compliance with §205.202, 205.203(d) and (e), 205.204, and 205.206(b) through (f). Land used for the production of annual crops for ruminant grazing must be managed in full compliance with §205.202 through 205.206. Irrigation shall be used, as needed, to promote pasture growth when the operation has irrigation available for use on pasture.
(b) Producers must provide pasture in compliance with §205.239(a)(2) and manage pasture to comply with the requirements of: §205.237(c)(2), to annually provide a minimum of 30 percent of a ruminant's dry matter intake (DMI), on average, over the course of the grazing season(s); §205.238(a)(3), to minimize the occurrence and spread of diseases and parasites; and §205.239(e) to refrain from putting soil or water quality at risk.
(c) A pasture plan must be included in the producer's organic system plan, and be updated annually in accordance with §205.406(a). The producer may resubmit the previous year's pasture plan when no change has occurred in the plan. The pasture plan may consist of a pasture/rangeland plan developed in cooperation with a Federal, State, or local conservation office: Provided, that, the submitted plan addresses all of the requirements of §205.240(c)(1) through (8). When a change to an approved pasture plan is contemplated, which may affect the operation's compliance with the Act or the regulations in this part, the producer shall seek the certifying agent's agreement on the change prior to implementation. The pasture plan shall include a description of the:
Temporary variances from the requirements in §205.203 through 205.207, 205.236 through 205.240 and 205.270 through 205.272 may be established by the Administrator for the following reasons:
(b) A State organic program's governing State official or certifying agent may recommend in writing to the Administrator that a temporary variance from a standard set forth in subpart C of this part for organic production or handling operations be established: Provided, That, such variance is based on one or more of the reasons listed in paragraph (a) of this section.
(c) The Administrator will provide written notification to certifying agents upon establishment of a temporary variance applicable to the certifying agent's certified production or handling operations and specify the period of time it shall remain in effect, subject to extension as the Administrator deems necessary.
(d) A certifying agent, upon notification from the Administrator of the establishment of a temporary variance, must notify each production or handling operation it certifies to which the temporary variance applies.
(e) Temporary variances will not be granted for any practice, material, or procedure prohibited under §205.105.
In accordance with restrictions specified in this section the following synthetic substances may be used in organic livestock production:
(a) As disinfectants, sanitizer, and medical treatments as applicable.
(b) As topical treatment, external parasiticide or local anesthetic as applicable.
(c) As feed supplements — None.
(d) As feed additives.
(e) As synthetic inert ingredients as classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for use with non-synthetic substances or synthetic substances listed in this section and used as an active pesticide ingredient in accordance with any limitations on the use of such substances.
(f) Excipients, only for use in the manufacture of drugs used to treat organic livestock when the excipient is: Identified by the FDA as Generally Recognized As Safe; Approved by the FDA as a food additive; or Included in the FDA review and approval of a New Animal Drug Application or New Drug Application.
The following non-synthetic substances may not be used in organic livestock production:
Agricultural product. Any agricultural commodity or product, whether raw or processed, including any commodity or product derived from livestock, that is marketed in the United States for human or livestock consumption.
AMDUCA. The Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act of 1994 (Pub. L. 103-396).
Animal drug. Any drug as defined in section 201 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, as amended (21 U.S.C. 321), that is intended for use in livestock, including any drug intended for use in livestock feed but not including such livestock feed.
Audit trail. Documentation that is sufficient to determine the source, transfer of ownership, and transportation of any agricultural product labeled as "100 percent organic," the organic ingredients of any agricultural product labeled as "organic" or "made with organic (specified ingredients)" or the organic ingredients of any agricultural product containing less than 70 percent organic ingredients identified as organic in an ingredients statement.
Biologics. All viruses, serums, toxins, and analogous products of natural or synthetic origin, such as diagnostics, antitoxins, vaccines, live microorganisms, killed microorganisms, and the antigenic or immunizing components of microorganisms intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of diseases of animals.
Breeder stock. Female livestock whose offspring may be incorporated into an organic operation at the time of their birth.
Buffer zone. An area located between a certified production operation or portion of a production operation and an adjacent land area that is not maintained under organic management. A buffer zone must be sufficient in size or other features (e.g., windbreaks or a diversion ditch) to prevent the possibility of unintended contact by prohibited substances applied to adjacent land areas with an area that is part of a certified operation.
Certified operation. A crop or livestock production, wild-crop harvesting or handling operation, or portion of such operation that is certified by an accredited certifying agent as utilizing a system of organic production or handling as described by the Act and the regulations in this part.
Certifying agent. Any entity accredited by the Secretary as a certifying agent for the purpose of certifying a production or handling operation as a certified production or handling operation.
Claims. Oral, written, implied, or symbolic representations, statements, or advertising or other forms of communication presented to the public or buyers of agricultural products that relate to the organic certification process or the term, "100 percent organic," "organic," or "made with organic [specified ingredients or food group(s)]," or, in the case of agricultural products containing less than 70 percent organic ingredients, the term, "organic," on the ingredients panel.
Class of animal. A group of livestock that shares a similar stage of life or production. The classes of animals are those that are commonly listed on feed labels.
Commingling. Physical contact between unpackaged organically produced and non-organically produced agricultural products during production, processing, transportation, storage or handling, other than during the manufacture of a multi-ingredient product containing both types of ingredients.
Compost. The product of a managed process through which microorganisms break down plant and animal materials into more available forms suitable for application to the soil. Compost must be produced through a process that combines plant and animal materials with an initial C:N ratio of between 25:1 and 40:1. Producers using an in-vessel or static aerated pile system must maintain the composting materials at a temperature between 131 degrees Fahrenheit and 170 degrees Fahrenheit for three days. Producers using a windrow system must maintain the composting materials at a temperature between 131 degrees Fahrenheit and 170 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 days, during which time, the materials must be turned a minimum of five times.
Crop. Pastures, cover crops, green manure crops, catch crops, or any plant or part of a plant intended to be marketed as an agricultural product, fed to livestock, or used in the field to manage nutrients and soil fertility.
Disease vectors. Plants or animals that harbor or transmit disease organisms or pathogens which may attack crops or livestock.
Dry lot. A fenced area that may be covered with concrete, but that has little or no vegetative cover.
Dry matter. The amount of a feedstuff remaining after all the free moisture is evaporated out.
Dry matter demand. The expected dry matter intake for a class of animal.
Dry matter intake. Total pounds of all feed, devoid of all moisture, consumed by a class of animals over a given period of time.
Excipients. Any ingredients that are intentionally added to livestock medications but do not exert therapeutic or diagnostic effects at the intended dosage, although they may act to improve product delivery (e.g., enhancing absorption or controlling release of the drug substance). Examples of such ingredients include fillers, extenders, diluents, wetting agents, solvents, emulsifiers, preservatives, flavors, absorption enhancers, sustained-release matrices, and coloring agents.
Excluded methods. A variety of methods used to genetically modify organisms or influence their growth and development by means that are not possible under natural conditions or processes and are not considered compatible with organic production. Such methods include cell fusion, microencapsulation and macro-encapsulation, and recombinant DNA technology (including gene deletion, gene doubling, introducing a foreign gene, and changing the positions of genes when achieved by recombinant DNA technology). Such methods do not include the use of traditional breeding, conjugation, fermentation, hybridization, in vitro fertilization, or tissue culture.
Feed. Edible materials which are consumed by livestock for their nutritional value. Feed may be concentrates (grains) or roughages (hay, silage, fodder). The term, "feed," encompasses all agricultural commodities, including pasture ingested by livestock for nutritional purposes.
Feed additive. A substance added to feed in micro quantities to fulfill a specific nutritional need; i.e., essential nutrients in the form of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.
Feedlot. A dry lot for the controlled feeding of livestock.
Feed supplement. A combination of feed nutrients added to livestock feed to improve the nutrient balance or performance of the total ration and intended to be:
Forage. Vegetative material in a fresh, dried, or ensiled state (pasture, hay, or silage), which is fed to livestock.
Grazing season. The period of time when pasture is available for grazing, due to natural precipitation or irrigation. Grazing season dates may vary because of mid-summer heat/humidity, significant precipitation events, floods, hurricanes, droughts or winter weather events. Grazing season may be extended by the grazing of residual forage as agreed in the operation's organic system plan. Due to weather, season, or climate, the grazing season may or may not be continuous. Grazing season may range from 120 days to 365 days, but not less than 120 days per year.
Handler. Any person engaged in the business of handling agricultural products, including producers who handle crops or livestock of their own production, except such term shall not include final retailers of agricultural products that do not process agricultural products.
Inclement weather. Weather that is violent, or characterized by temperatures (high or low), or characterized by excessive precipitation that can cause physical harm to a given species of livestock. Production yields or growth rates of livestock lower than the maximum achievable do not qualify as physical harm.
Label. A display of written, printed, or graphic material on the immediate container of an agricultural product or any such material affixed to any agricultural product or affixed to a bulk container containing an agricultural product, except for package liners or a display of written, printed, or graphic material which contains only information about the weight of the product.
Livestock. Any cattle, sheep, goats, swine, poultry, or equine animals used for food or in the production of food, fiber, feed, or other agricultural-based consumer products; wild or domesticated game; or other non-plant life, except such term shall not include aquatic animals for the production of food, fiber, feed, or other agricultural-based consumer products.
Manure. Feces, urine, other excrement, and bedding produced by livestock that has not been composted.
Market information. Any written, printed, audiovisual, or graphic information, including advertising, pamphlets, flyers, catalogues, posters, and signs, distributed, broadcast, or made available outside of retail outlets that are used to assist in the sale or promotion of a product.
National List. A list of allowed and prohibited substances as provided for in the Act.
Natural resources of the operation. The physical, hydrological, and biological features of a production operation, including soil, water, wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife.
Non-synthetic (natural). A substance that is derived from mineral, plant, or animal matter and does not undergo a synthetic process as defined in section 6502(21) of the Act [7 U.S.C. 6502(21)]. For the purposes of this part, non-synthetic is used as a synonym for natural as the term is used in the Act.
Organic. A labeling term that refers to an agricultural product produced in accordance with the Act and the regulations in this part.
Organic matter. The remains, residues, or waste products of any organism.
Organic production. A production system that is managed in accordance with the Act and regulations in this part to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.
Organic system plan. A plan of management of an organic production or handling operation that has been agreed to by the producer or handler and the certifying agent and that includes written plans concerning all aspects of agricultural production or handling described in the Act and the regulations in subpart C of this part.
Pasture. Land used for livestock grazing that is managed to provide feed value and maintain or improve soil, water, and vegetative resources.
Practice standard. The guidelines and requirements through which a production or handling operation implements a required component of its production or handling organic system plan. A practice standard includes a series of allowed and prohibited actions, materials, and conditions to establish a minimum level performance for planning, conducting, and maintaining a function, such as livestock health care or facility pest management, essential to an organic operation.
Processing. Cooking, baking, curing, heating, drying, mixing, grinding, churning, separating, extracting, slaughtering, cutting, fermenting, distilling, eviscerating, preserving, dehydrating, freezing, chilling, or otherwise manufacturing and includes the packaging, canning, jarring, or otherwise enclosing food in a container.
Producer. A person who engages in the business of growing or producing food, fiber, feed, and other agricultural-based consumer products.
Production lot number/identifier. Identification of a product based on the production sequence of the product showing the date, time, and place of production used for quality control purposes.
Prohibited substance. A substance the use of which in any aspect of organic production or handling is prohibited or not provided for in the Act or the regulations of this part.
Records. Any information in written, visual, or electronic form that documents the activities undertaken by a producer, handler, or certifying agent to comply with the Act and regulations in this part.
Residual forage. Forage cut and left to lie, or windrowed and left to lie, in place in the pasture.
Routine use of parasiticide. The regular, planned, or periodic use of parasiticides.
Secretary. The Secretary of Agriculture or a representative to whom authority has been delegated to act in the Secretary's stead.
Shelter. Structures such as barns, sheds, or windbreaks; or natural areas such as woods, tree lines, large hedge rows, or geographic land features, that are designed or selected to provide physical protection or housing to all animals.
Slaughter stock. Any animal that is intended to be slaughtered for consumption by humans or other animals.
Soil and water quality. Observable indicators of the physical, chemical, or biological condition of soil and water, including the presence of environmental contaminants.
Split operation. An operation that produces or handles both organic and nonorganic agricultural products.
Stage of life. A discrete time period in an animal's life which requires specific management practices different than during other periods (e.g., poultry during feathering). Breeding, freshening, lactation and other recurring events are not a stage of life.
Synthetic. A substance that is formulated or manufactured by a chemical process or by a process that chemically changes a substance extracted from naturally occurring plant, animal, or mineral sources, except that such term shall not apply to substances created by naturally occurring biological processes.
Temporary and Temporarily. Occurring for a limited time only (e.g., overnight, throughout a storm, during a period of illness, the period of time specified by the Administrator when granting a temporary variance), not permanent or lasting.
Yards/Feeding pad. An area for feeding, exercising, and outdoor access for livestock during the non-grazing season and a high traffic area where animals may receive supplemental feeding during the grazing season.
Please note: The National List is subject to change as a result of legal actions, petitions to add or remove materials or technical corrections. Please go to the National Organic Program (NOP) website for the most current version of the National List.
Organic Standards for Livestock Production:
Excerpts of USDA's National Organic Program Regulations
By Ann H. Baier
NCAT Agriculture Specialist
© 2010 NCAT
Holly Michels, Editor
Adrienne Herren, HTML Production
This page was last updated on: August 28, 2014