Exempt from certification

Which types of food businesses are exempt from organic certification?

OTCO has created a Certification Matrix to help determine whether operations require organic certification or may be exempt.


All exempt food businesses are able to opt into organic certification and be eligible to use the USDA organic seal, make organic label claims on the principal display panel and more.

Do I need to follow organic regulations if my business is exempt?

Uncertified businesses falling under an exemption are still responsible for following all organic regulations — e.g., preventing commingling and contamination, recordkeeping to demonstrate compliance, etc. — and must meet the USDA NOP labeling requirements for organic products produced by exempt operations. In addition, exempt operations must maintain all organic product records for at least three years.

Are there any prohibited activities for exempt, uncertified food businesses?

If your food business qualifies as exempt but produces organic products you cannot:

  • Display the USDA organic seal, any certifying agent’s seal or another identifying mark that represents the exempt or excluded operation as a certified organic operation
  • Represent products as certified organic to any buyer
  • Have products identified or represented as “organic” in a product processed by others (e.g. used as an organic ingredient in a product made by someone else)

Are any types of products excluded from organic certification?

Organic certification is limited to agricultural or agriculturally-based products. Materials and other non-agriculturally produced products are excluded from being able to be certified organic, such as:

  • Fertilizers
  • Sanitizers
  • Pest controls
  • Soil amendments
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals (including salt)
  • Fish and other aquatic species

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