SSA President Dale Read clarifies who can and cannot use the USDA-NOP Seal in their marketing

The following does not represent a legal opinion or a legal representation. This is merely a research report on links and materials readily available from USDA-NOP and the Organic Trade Association (OTA.)

Manufacturers of Finished Textile or “Fiber” Products May NOT Use the USDA-NOP Seal.

A question has arisen on a number of occasions with members of the Specialty Sleep Association (SSA) and other mattress, pillow and textile products manufacturers concerning the use of the USDA-NOP Seal with marketing tools, websites, signage and public relations.

The US Government USDA and the USDA-National Organic Program (NOP) receive their authority and financing through the Farm Bill. As a result the jurisdiction or authority to create standards and enforcement for the USDA-NOP are reserved for “agricultural crops or animals  and the farms, ranches and plantations where these agri-products are grown or raised, and in the case of food products, the subsequent processing. The farms are inspected and the agri-source receives the USDA-NOP certification and use of the seal. If you use cotton, wool, coir, hemp or other “organic” fibers, even if they originate on a farm or an agricultural site that has the USDA-NOP seal, the minute you handle, wash, comb, spin, weave or process the textile or create a finished textile or fiber product, you are not authorized to use that USDA-NOP seal. There are NO USDA-NOP mattresses, pillows, futons,  toppers, sheets, comforters, or other mattress and bedding products.

The labeling requirements of the NOP apply to raw, fresh products and processed products that contain organic agricultural ingredients. Agricultural products that are sold, labeled, or represented as organic must be produced and processed in accordance with the NOP standards. Except for operations whose gross income from organic sales totals $5,000 or less, farm and processing operations that grow and process organic agricultural products must be certified by USDA-accredited certifying agents.

Since then, the seal has become a highly sought-after labeling mark in the world of agricultural products and has appeared on millions of labels, advertisements, and marketing materials.

Textile products that are labeled as “organic” must not:

•Use the USDA organic seal unless they are certified in accordance with the NOP regulations. 

•Imply or lead the consumer to believe that the final product is certified under the NOP Regulations unless they are certified in accordance with the NOP regulations. 

•Use a combination of both organic and non-organic sources for a single fiber that is identified as “organic” in the final product.

As a practical alternative, the policy memo explicitly confirms that textile products produced in accordance with GOTS, such as apparel, mattresses, or socks, may be sold as “organic” in the United States, although they may not refer to NOP certification or carry the USDA Organic seal.