Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy

Fertilizer Products for Organic Gardening

Choosing fertilizers and soil amendments for your organic garden can be easier, 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. Furthermore, 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. The result is confusion for home gardeners. A 2006 Internet poll of 1,162 home gardeners, by the Organic Trade Association (OTA), indicated that 97 percent of polled gardeners are confused by fertilizers and soil amendments labeled as organic.

This spring, home gardeners who would like to garden with fertilizers and soil amendment products allowed in certified organic farming can use the following tips:

1. Gardeners can start by looking 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. To find fertilizers and soil amendments more likely to be allowed in certified organic farming, 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. Gardeners can find suppliers of fertilizer products allowed in organic farming and gardening on OTA's 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 or prohibited in organic agriculture. 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. Gardeners who want to garden according to the national organic standards or sell their surplus as organic must avoid products containing prohibited substances.

The mission of the Organic Trade Association is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy. OTA envisions organic products becoming a significant part of everyday life, enhancing people's lives and the environment. As a membership-based business association, the Organic Trade Association focuses on the organic business community in North America. OTA's more than 1,500 members include farmers, processors, importers, exporters, distributors, retailers, certifiers, and more. For further information, visit OTA's web site at .

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