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The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA) (Title 21 of Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990, codified at 7 U.S.C. ch. 94, 7 U.S.C. § 6501 et seq.) authorizes a National Organic Program (NOP) to be administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). The program will be based on federal regulations that define standard organic farming practices and on a National List of acceptable organic production inputs. Private and state certifiers will visit producers, processors, and handlers to certify’ that their operations abide by the standards. Once certified, these operations may affix a label on their product stating that it “Meets USDA Organic Requirements.” It will be illegal for anyone to use the word “organic” on a product if it does not meet the standards set in the law and regulations. The regulations under the OFPA are intended to set uniform minimum standards for organic production. However, states may adopt additional requirements after review and approval by USDA. AMS will re-accredit certifying agents every 5 years, maintain federal oversight to assure truth in labeling, and provide assurance that imported organic products have been produced under standards that are equivalent to the U.S. standards.
The act called for the establishment of a 15-member National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to “assist in the development of standards for substances to be used in organic production” (i.e., the National List) and to “provide recommendations to the Secretary regarding implementation” of the act. Congress expected implementation to be complete and the program in operation by October 1, 1993. However, the Board was hampered at the beginning by a lack of funds, among other factors. Neither departmental nor appropriated funds were available in FY1991; in FY1992 and FY1993, USDA made $120,000 available under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. Beginning in FY1994, Congress appropriated funds for AMS’s National Organic Program activities at about $500,000 annually. The FY1999 Administration budget requests slightly more than $1 million to assist the implementation of the new program. The OFPA stipulates that the costs of the program, once fully operational, will be paid for entirely by fees collected from producers, certifying agents, and handlers.
During the period from June 1994