USDA Organic Program Structure


Diagram of the USDA organic program structure, as described above in the text.


USDA National Organic Program (NOP) 

The National Organic Program (NOP) is housed within the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service department. The NOP does not certify operations but accredits certifiers to do that work for them. Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF) is one of those certifiers. The NOP is responsible for enforcing the use of the word "organic" and responding to complaints and allegations regarding the compliance of operations. They are also in charge of:

  • Disseminating new and amended regulations
  • Recognizing foreign governments
  • Approving State Organic Programs


The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is the advisory board to the NOP. There are 15 members (4 farmers, 2 processors, 1 retailer, 1 scientist, 3 consumer/public interest advocates, 3 environmentalists, and 1 certifying agent representative) and these members are intended to be a balanced representation of the organic industry. 

The NOSB is responsible for making recommendations for allowed and prohibited substances but they also advise on other aspects of implementing the National Organic Program. The board holds two meetings a year in different locations around the country that are open to the public. 


Accredited Certification Agencies (ACAs)

Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF) is an accredited certification agency (ACA). The main role of the ACAs is to provide third-party certification of the NOP regulations.  All ACAs are required to follow the certification and accreditation procedures as established in the NOP regulations.  All ACAs must accept the certification decisions of other certifiers, so a farm certified by Oregon Tilth for example is able to sell their product to a farm certified by VOF without any issue.


Certified Organic Farmers & Processors & Members of the Public

Certified organic farmers and processors can participate in the rulemaking process by submitting public comments regarding rule changes to the NOP and can appeal any certification decisions made by an ACA. Members of the public can also submit comment to the NOSB during their public meetings that occur twice a year. 


Explore the organic rules and search for certified organic producers.

Includes all USDA organic standards, including prohibited practices, requirements, and the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.


Find a specific certified organic farm or business, or search for an operation with specific characteristics. Listings come from USDA-Accredited Certifying Agents. The only complete list of all certified operations in the United States.