National Organic Program

The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) was implemented in 2002.  It was created after Congress passed a bill in 1990 called the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA).  OFPA established the framework to create the National Organic Standards.  Before 2002, since there was no national standard, what was sold as organic in California was not the same as a product that was sold in say, Colorado.  Therefore, this National Organic Program Standard was created to set specific standards for growing, processing and handling foods labeled “organic”.

At its heart, USDA Certified Organic means that synthetic chemical inputs (pesticides and herbicides) are not used to grow your food or added later during processing.  Each operation requesting or maintaining certification must adhere to the section in the Standard called, “The National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances”. These lists discuss what is allowed or prohibited for use in organic crop and livestock production as well as processed products.

When shopping at our stores, you will notice the USDA Certified Organic Seal, which is a clear indication that product meets the NOP Standards. There are several variations on organic label claims, including “100% Organic” (just like it sounds), “Organic” (meaning at least 95% of the ingredients are organic), “Made with Organic” (meaning at least 70% of ingredients are organic) and, finally, simply listing the organic ingredients on the ingredient panel.

Natural Grocers stores are among the few retailers to be USDA certified organic handlers.  To become certified organic, a retailer/operation must be inspected and certified through a USDA accredited certification agency (ACA). There are approximately 100 ACA’s that certify operations throughout the world.  Although retailers are not required to become certified handlers, we feel it is important to our customers to confirm through this third party audit that our handling practices do in fact protect your organic foods from seed to farm to table.  You can buy produce labeled “organic” from any run-of-the-mill market, but you can’t be sure it has not been contaminated, commingled, or mixed up with the other products that you really don’t want to consume.

If you are a USDA certified organic vendor or USDA certified organic grower that would like to service one or multiple Natural Grocers locations please contact produce@naturalgrocers.com to start the approval process.


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