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USDA/AMS RIN: 0581-AD20 Publication ID: Fall 2014 
Title: National Organic Program, Organic Pet Food Standards 

The National Organic Program (NOP) is establishing national standards governing the marketing of organically produced agricultural products. In 2004, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) initiated the development of organic pet food standards, which had not been incorporated into the NOP regulations, by forming a task force which included pet food manufacturers, organic consultants, etc. Collectively, these experts drafted organic pet food standards consistent with the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, Food and Drug Administration requirements, and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Model Regulations for Pet and Specialty Pet Food. The AAFCO regulations are scientifically based regulations for voluntary adoption by State jurisdictions to ensure the safety, quality, and effectiveness of feed. In November 2008, the NOSB approved a final recommendation for organic pet food standards incorporating the provisions drafted by the pet food task force.

Agency: Department of Agriculture(USDA)  Priority: Other Significant 
RIN Status: Previously published in the Unified Agenda Agenda Stage of Rulemaking: Proposed Rule Stage 
Major: No  Unfunded Mandates: No 
EO 13771 Designation: uncollected 
CFR Citation: 7 CFR 205   
Legal Authority: 7 USC 6501   
Legal Deadline:
Action Source Description Date
NPRM  Statutory    04/30/2015 

Overall Description of Deadline: The National Organic Program (NOP) is establishing national standards governing the marketing of organically produced agricultural products.

Statement of Need:

This action is necessary to ensure consistency in the composition and labeling of pet food products bearing organic claims. While the NOP has maintained that pet food may be certified in accordance with the existing USDA organic regulations, the requirements for processed products are intended for human foods and are not entirely applicable to pet food. The uncertainty about pet food composition and labeling requirements causes confusion in the marketplace with potentially negative impacts for the credibility of the organic label in general. This action responds to a 2008 recommendation of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and industry requests for organic pet food standards.

Summary of the Legal Basis:

The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA) authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to establish an organic certification program for producers and handlers of agricultural products that have been produced using organic methods (7 U.S.C. 6503(a)). The OFPA also authorizes the NOSB to provide recommendations to the Secretary regarding the implementation of the National Organic Program (7 U.S.C. 6518(k)(1)).


AMS has considered the implications of developing specific composition and labeling standards for organic pet food versus maintaining the status quo and not pursuing regulatory action. In addition, AMS is examining options regarding potential implementation periods. Finally, AMS considered the viability of composition requirements that vary from those recommended by the NOSB.

Anticipated Costs and Benefits:

This proposed rule would facilitate the marketing of organic pet food by establishing clear, enforceable requirements for the composition and labeling of these products. This action will clarify how pet food may be produced, certified, and marketed as organic and the significance of organic claims on pet food. That standardization would provide certainty to pet food handlers and certifying agents for manufacturing and certifying pet foods, respectively, and bolster consumer confidence. AMS does not expect this action to result in significant costs for the $109 million organic pet food sector (2012 sales). This action may be an incentive for some handlers that are using organic claims on noncertified pet food products to pursue certification. AMS intends to solicit specific public comments to validate this expectation.


AMS does not anticipate risks to be associated with this action. The NOSB and industry participated in the development of organic pet food standards and have strongly encouraged their adoption since 2008. This action may provoke questions about the Agency's intent with regard to a separate 2013 NOSB recommendation that would, in effect, prohibit the use of certain amino acids in organic pet food. AMS is evaluating the impact of that action; however, that recent recommendation is not expected to affect this rulemaking.

Action Date FR Cite
NPRM  04/00/2015 
Final Action  08/00/2016 
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: Yes  Government Levels Affected: Federal, Local, Tribal 
Small Entities Affected: Businesses, Organizations  Federalism: No 
Included in the Regulatory Plan: Yes 
RIN Data Printed in the FR: Yes 
Agency Contact:
Melissa Bailey
Associate Deputy Administrator, Specialty Crops Program
Department of Agriculture
Agricultural Marketing Service
14th & Independence Avenue SW,
Washington, DC 20250
Phone:202 720-6394