USDA Announces Expansion of the Organic Assessment Exemption

Wednesday, December 30, 2015 - 12:00pm

Release No.: 153-15

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30, 2015 - The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) today issued a final rule to expand the exemption for certified organic products from assessments collected by commodity promotion programs and marketing orders administered by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).  The rule will be effective on Feb. 29, 2016, 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register.

As directed by the 2014 Farm Bill, the exemption from assessments is now available for all “organic” and “100 percent organic” products, regardless of whether the entity requesting an exemption also produces non-organic products.  Previously, the exemption applied only to entities that solely produced, handled, marketed, processed, manufactured, or imported products that were certified 100 percent organic.  The 2014 Farm Bill expanded the exemption to firms that also grow, ship, or handle non-organic products.  It also extends the exemption from assessments for promotion and research activities to producers, handlers, marketers, processors, manufacturers, feeders or importers of “organic” and “100 percent organic” products certified under the National Organic Program.    

There are 22 national research and promotion programs and 23 marketing order programs that have market promotion authority.  For the research and promotion programs, eligible producers, handlers, marketers, processors, manufacturers, feeders, and importers can apply for an exemption from assessments on products certified as “organic” or “100 percent organic.”  Under the federal marketing order programs, eligible handlers can apply for exemption from the portion of the total assessment that is designated for market promotion activities.  The marketing orders that will provide exemptions are for Florida citrus, Texas citrus, Florida avocados, Washington apricots, Washington sweet cherries, Southeastern California grapes, Oregon/ Washington pears, cranberries, tart cherries, California olives, Colorado potatoes, Georgia Vidalia onions, Washington/Oregon Walla Walla onions, Idaho/Eastern Oregon onions, Texas onions, Florida tomatoes, California almonds, Oregon/Washington hazelnuts, California walnuts, Far West spearmint oil, California dates, California raisins, and California dried prunes.

Industry research and promotion programs and federal marketing orders are requested by industry and funded by industry assessments.  The programs work to create and expand markets for the agricultural commodities they represent.  AMS oversees the programs to ensure fiscal accountability, program integrity, and fair treatment of participating stakeholders.

Notice of the changes will be published in the Dec. 31, 2015, Federal Register.  For more information, contact Barry Broadbent, Senior Marketing Specialist, or Michelle P. Sharrow, Branch Chief, Marketing Order and Agreement Division, Specialty Crops Program, AMS, USDA; Telephone: (202) 720-2491, or email:, or  

Get the latest Agricultural Marketing Service news at or follow us on Twitter @USDA_AMS. You can also read about us on the USDA blog.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).