WASHINGTON – The first edition of a program handbook designed for those who own, manage or certify organic operations was published Sept. 2 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Prepared by the National Organic Program (N.O.P.), the handbook provides guidance about the national organic standards and instructions that outline best-program practices.

“The handbook is designed for all organic operations, including meat and poultry,” a U.S.D.A. spokesperson told MEAT&POULTRY.com. It is intended to serve as a resource for the organic industry to help participants comply with federal regulations.

“The handbook will provide guidance to the organic agricultural community to enable them to carry out production and handling processes in a consistent manner,” said Miles McEvoy, N.O.P. deputy administrator. “It will also reduce the burden on industry participants as they work to comply or verify compliance with the N.O.P. regulations.”

First proposed as a “program manual” one decade ago and more recently addressed in the March 2010 USDA Office of Inspector General audit report of the N.O.P., the publication of the program handbook marks an important step in N.O.P.’s efforts to ensure consistency in the application of N.O..P regulations, U.S.D.A. relays.

Guidance on the allowance of green waste in organic production systems, approval of liquid fertilizers in organic production, certification of organic yeast, processed animal manures in organic crop production, reassessed inert ingredients and the calculation of dry matter intake for N.O.P.’s access to pasture requirements are featured in the inaugural edition of the handbook.

It also includes instructions concerning organic certification, such as recordkeeping, steps to certification and organic certificates; accreditation procedures, such as how to apply to become an accredited certifying agent; international procedures, such as how U.S.D.A. determines equivalence of foreign organic standards to those of the N.O.P.; compliance and enforcement measures, such as how to handle complaints; and appeals procedures for certified operations or accredited agents.

The handbook also explains the difference between N.O.P. guidance and instruction documents and outlines their purpose, legal effect, and the process by which the N.O.P. authorizes, reviews, revises and disseminates them to the public. Future guidance documents will be issued through the notice and comment process outlined in the handbook.

The handbook is accessible at http://www.ams.usda.gov/NOPProgramHandbook. Printed copies can be made available upon request to Standards Division, National Organic Program, 1400 Independence Ave., SW., Room 2646-S, Ag Stop 0268, Washington, D.C. 20250-0268; phone: (202) 720-3252; fax: (202) 205-7808. Copies can also be downloaded from the Internet.