Answers to Your Questions: JUNE

Developed by The New Farm® Answer Team

JUNE 1, 2003: Here are some of the certification-related questions you’ve asked us recently, along with responses from our answer team.

1. This question is regarding "credence goods" labeling. Do the National Organic Program and the presence of the "USDA organic" label affect other labeling, such as Kosher, biodynamic, or seals of approval for "sustainability" practices by an organization such as The Food Alliance?

No. "Companion label" claims, such as Kosher, biodynamic, grass-fed, Food Alliance, etc., need to be truthful, but they are beyond the scope of the NOP regulation, and are allowed.

2. Can an organic farmer use insect traps such as “sticky” and pheromone traps?

Yes, such traps are permitted. However, pheromone formulations may contain inert ingredients that are not allowed for use in organic production systems, so it is necessary to consider the acceptability of specific products. To determine whether specific products are allowed you must verify the regulatory status of the products with your certifier. When in doubt always check with your certifier about the status of a material before purchasing the product, or at least before applying it to your land or crop.

3. Do fish meal, blood meal, and bone meal have to be organic to be used as soil amendments?

No, they do not have to be organic. However, to be used in organic production, such products must not contain synthetic fertilizers, preservatives, or other prohibited materials in their ingredient lists. Once again, when in doubt, check with your certifier before purchasing or applying such a product.

4. If the manure used in an organic system comes from animals that have been treated with chemicals would the system still be considered organic?

There is no requirement that manure has to be from an organic animal to be used as a fertilizer on an organic farm. The manure can come from a conventional herd but you need to keep in mind that the fertility management system cannot contaminate crops, soil, or water with heavy metals, pathogens, excess nutrients, or prohibited materials. If the manure source is contaminated with heavy metals, pathogens, or pesticides, it may not be appropriate to use. So you need to keep records on the source of the manure and information about the management practices used where the manure was generated.

Chicken manure is an example of a manure source which may be contaminated with heavy metals. Some growers farm on soils that may have elevated levels of arsenic as a result of past management practices. Certain chicken farms add arsenic in the feed as a growth stimulant. Since arsenic doesn’t break down (because it is an element), it can be transported directly to your farm in the manure. In situations like the one presented in this example, it would be very important for you to be aware which manure contains arsenic, and to avoid buying or using it.

5. May compost teas be used for organic production currently, and are they going to be prohibited in the future?

If the compost used for compost tea is produced according to the National Organic Standards, then compost tea can be used. The regulations do not prohibit additions of sugar and molasses, so the use of added sugars is in compliance with the National Organic Program. However, there is a provision in the regulations that prohibits the use of fertilizer materials that are contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides, or pathogens. So, if an organic farming system uses compost tea, the inspector and the certifier would check to see if the compost tea is free of pathogens or other contaminants that could affect the safety of the food product.

6. How does planting seedlings from a non-organic nursery affect the status of certified organic land? Would the land be taken out of organic status or is it only the fruit from the trees that are affected?

Annual seedlings must be organic, so planting nonorganic seedlings would mean that the crops grown from those seedlings could not be certified organic. Nonorganic perennial planting stock, such as fruit trees, can be used on an organic site where organic planting stock is not commercially available in the form, quality, quantity, or equivalent variety needed by the operation. Planting nonorganic planting stock does not affect the land’s certification; it is still organic. Any non-organic perennial must be grown on that organic site for at least a year before the harvested crop, or the perennial plant itself, can be sold as organic.

7. What growing media is being used for organic greenhouse production? How do you produce a media that is acceptable for organic production?

The media would need to be in compliance with the National Organic Program; so basically the media would need to consist of natural materials. When deciding what materials to use, check with your certifier and review the materials list for approved generic materials. Generally, the greenhouse media could consist of compost, topsoil, sand, peat moss, sphagnum moss, vermiculite, perlite, etc., but synthetic wetting agents and synthetic fertilizers are prohibited.

Certification Archives

For a full list of your questions and our answers as well as some highlighted articles, visit our certification archives or click on the desired category below.


    1. General
    2. Certification
    3. Crop Production
    4. Livestock Production
    5. Handling
    6. Labeling
    7. Allowed and Prohibited Substances