USDA Certified Organic Hemp

USDA Certified Organic Hemp was impossible to find until 2019, when the passing of the farm bill gave USDA a mandate to manage and certify hemp production.

Prior to this, most of the available “organic” hemp and CBD products were sourced from Europe or other regions with a viable, federally legal hemp industry.

As we approach the 2019 Harvest season, a small but growing number of organic producers are undertaking organic certification programs for their hemp farms and crops

What is Organic?

Organic is a labelling  and marketing term that indicates that an other agricultural product has been produced and processed using approved methods. Organic methods are designed to be more natural and sustainable on multiple levels. Synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, irradiation, sewage, GMO and other artificial, processed or toxic methods may not be used.

What is USDA Organic Certification?

USDA Organic certification helps identify organic product and lays out clear guidelines for what is allowed to be presented as organic, and what is not.

Among expectations for organic products is that it uses only organic inputs and processes, is kept separate from non-organic product, and only uses approved natural fertilisers and pest control materials.

USDA Organic Seal

The USDA’s national organic program enforces compliance with published standards and limits the use of the term organic to approved products.

THE USDA Organic Seal helps consumers and businesses known that products are grown and processed organically, made only of approved substances, and have been verified organic by the USDA.

The USDA organic seal is one of the best recognised food and natural products certification programs, and will help give consumers greater confidence that hemp products are natural and “healthy”.

USDA Certified Organic Hemp will be eligible to display the organic seal.

Organic Hemp Farming Practices

Organic Hemp Farming Practices are widely practiced in the USA, but the lack of standardisation, certification and transparency for organic hemp gives consumers little reason to trust claims for hemp products.

There is a strong industry movement toward implementing organic farming practices and a zero-pesticide approach to cultivation, but the news that USDA will now certify hemp will be welcome news to organic farmers.

Writing this now in mid 2019 it is still early days, but we are beginning to see the first USDA Certified organic hemp coming into production. The development of organic processing facilities and availability of organic hemp seed oil now makes truly Organic, US farmed and processed CBD products becoming available to consumers and manufacturers.

While very few hemp farms are currently organically certified, most hemp in the US is farmed following some organic farming principles, and many hemp farmers and processors may claim their product is “organic”.

USDA organic certification gives consumers and businesses that when they buy organic, they get what they pay for.

The USDA also provides guidance on organic farming practices.

2018 Farm Bill opens door for USDA certification.

The 2018 Farm Bill authorised the USDA to oversee hemp production and processing, making hemp almost like a normal industrial crop, albeit a highly regulated one. Importantly hemp is no longer a controlled substance and is now considered a legal agricultural commodity in the USA.

National Organic Program

The National Organic Program (NOP) is part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and is the government body has regulatory oversight responsibilities for the USDA  organic standards and the accreditation of organic certifying agents. The NOP also has authority to take appropriate legal action to enforce the organic standards and thus protect the integrity of the USDA organic standards, from farm to market, around the world.

Organic Production and Handling Standards

Organic Hemp Producers agree to follow the Organic Production and Handling Standards.

The availability of these standards is a valuable addition to an industry which has largely been self regulated and or have been developed in a non-commercial environment.

USDA Certification and Hemp Pilot programs

When the 2014 Farm Bill authorised domestic hemp production under state pilot programs. Over the next few years the USDA clarified requirements for organic certification, specifying only for growers operating in state pilot programs would be eligible for certification.

USDA Organic Processing Certification

Once farmers harvest their certified organic hemp, they must have it processed in a USDA facility following organic practices to allow them to label bulk products as organic. All components of the hemp plant are eligible for organic certification including hemp flower, hemp extracts, hemp seed, seed oil and fibre.

Maintaining Organic Hemp Supply Chain Integrity

One of the big challenges facing the hemp and cannabis industry is the need to use certified or approved inputs and processes throughout the supply chain.

Because this is a new and small industry, few vendors have achieved certification. For example, finding organic certified seeds and specialist fertilisers can be a challenge.

Similar challenges exist when trying to certify for ISO or GMP.

This video gives a good overview of the requirement to maintain organic supply chain integrity.

How to become USDA Organic Certified Hemp Farmer

To become certified organic hemp farmers must ensure their production all organic standards.

There are five steps to organic certification:

  1. The farm or business adopts organic practices, selects a USDA-accredited certifying agent, and submits an application and fees to the certifying agent.
  2. The certifying agent reviews the application to verify that practices comply with USDA organic regulations.
  3. An inspector conducts an on-site inspection of the applicant’s operation.
  4. The certifying agent reviews the application and the inspector’s report to determine if the applicant complies with the USDA organic regulations.
  5. The certifying agent issues organic certificate.

To maintain organic certification, your certified organic farm or business will go through an annual review and inspection process.

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