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Identifying Organic Fertilizers

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Choosing fertilizers and soil amendments for your organic garden is easy, once you understand that product labels for organic foods are different from labels of products intended for organic gardening.

Unlike organic food products that carry the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) organic seal, fertilizers and soil amendments allowed in organic farming do not have a national logo that identifies them. Also, labeling regulations for fertilizers vary from state to state, and the word ‘organic’ on these products often refers only to the chemical composition of the product.

 Here are some easy tips you can follow as you look for organic fertilizers for your home garden:

1. Look for the OMRI Listed seal.
The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) is a nonprofit organization that provides an independent review of products intended for use in certified organic farming, processing and handling, and checks fertilizers, soil amendments, and other products against the
National Organic Standards.

2. Look at labels. 
Look for labels that say:

  • “This fertilizer product is allowed for use in organic production”
  • “Meets National Organic Program requirements for organic production”
  • “ Suitable for organic farming”
  • “Acceptable for use in organic production”
  • “Meets the requirements of the National Organic Program (NOP) for use in organic production;" or
  • “This product is listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) for use in organic production.”

Such statements are currently in use or have been approved for use on labels of fertilizer and soil amendment products allowed in organic production. Please remember that certifying agents always makes the final determination of whether a product is allowed for use on a certified organic farm.

3. Use TOPO.
You can find suppliers of fertilizer products allowed in organic farming and gardening on OTA’s The Organic Pages Online™ under ‘Farm Supplies’: . This directory includes a wide range of products such as blended dry fertilizers, composts, liquid fertilizers, micronutrients, soil conditioners, and a variety of other organic garden inputs.

4. Know what’s allowed and what's not.
A list of substances allowed and prohibited for organic crop production can be found on the USDA National Organic Program website.

Urea and biosolids are examples of synthetic substances prohibited from use in organic farming that can be found in some fertilizers labeled “organic.”

Manures composted according to NOP standards are allowed for organic production.

If you wish to garden according to the national organic standards or sell your surplus as organic,you must avoid using products containing prohibited substances.



*Article courtesy of Sally Pick.