Organic farming uses methods that preserve the natural environment and avoids most pesticides and antibiotics. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Organic Program (NOP) set the standards for organic farming and provide the regulations for how farmers must raise livestock and grow crops if they wish to use the USDA Organic certification logo on their produce.
Why is organic farming different?
Organic farming is different from conventional farming in several ways, the most prominent being that organic farmers do not use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides and genetically modified (GMO) seed is prohibited. The prohibition of GMO seed is one of the most significant regulations for organic products. Those seeking the USDA Organic certification cannot plant GMO seeds, cannot provide GMO alfalfa, soy, corn or other grain to an animal involved in the production of organic milk or meat, and cannot use GMO ingredients in the production of organic processed food (soups, salad mixes, frozen vegetables or fruits…). To meet the USDA organic regulations, organic farmers, ranchers, and food processors are required to follow the USDA’s standards which ensure the following:
- No use of GMOs (genetically modified ingredients)
- Only approved materials may be used
- Organic food must be separated from non-organic food
- Annual inspections of the site are required
- Preserve the area’s biodiversity and natural resources
- Place emphasis on the animal’s health and welfare including outdoor access
While achieving organic certification is not a simple or easy task, obtaining it does benefit farms and businesses – and consumers as well. As consumer demand for USDA Organic products has grown, most business that grow, handle, or process organic products want their products certified, and each year more begin the process of filing for it. In 2014, the USDA had listed over 31,000 ranchers, farmers, and food producers with USDA organic certification. The organic business sector accounted for $5.5 billion in sales in 2014, with the most valuable organic products being milk, eggs, broiler chickens, lettuce, and apples. In the same year, organic vegetables and fruits were responsible for 42% of all organic sales.
The USDA has continually strengthened its oversight of the organic certification, and uses a continuous improvement model for inspections at facilities and product testing to ensure the organic integrity of all materials. The USDA also investigates complaints lodged by consumers and has the authority to take action against any business, rancher, or farmer that violates the law.
What are the benefits of organic farming?
In addition, organic farming helps the environment in numerous ways. The majority of organic farms utilize environmentally-aware production practices such as water management, minimum tillage or no-till, maintaining a healthy habitat for beneficial vertebrates and insects, and environmentally-sound biological pest control. These protective practices help to contribute to a healthy and enhanced ecosystem that benefits soil health, water quality and biodiversity.
In contrast, conventional farming employs minimal rotation of crops, known as “mono cropping” or “monocultures.” This practice contributes to the depletion of minerals and nutrients in the soil which forces farmers to replenish the nutrients and minerals through the use of phosphate and hydrocarbon based fertilizers. Additionally, monocultures and poor soil health are easy targets for infestations of weeds, insects and other plant-based diseases, which increases the farmer’s reliance on synthetic pesticides and herbicides to manage. The use of inorganic herbicides or pesticides further damages the original soil biology and causing secondary environmental concerns through toxic run-off into waterways including oceans, rivers, lakes, and marshlands.
Tommy’s Uses Organic and Non-GMO Ingredients
At Tommy’s we take the principles of organic food production very seriously. All of our flash frozen vegetables medleys are Non-GMO Certified by the Non-GMO Project, and our Organic Seasoned Super Greens and Organic Seasoned Sweet Potatoes have attained USDA Organic Certification. We’re confident that you and your family will love the great taste and good health they’ll bring to your plate.