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  • Roger Plant

Opinion: What Materials Qualify for Use in Organic Production? OMRI

What Materials Qualify for Use in Organic Production? The Role of OMRI

Editorial note: Soon after the National Organic Program launched its accreditation of organic certifiers, those agencies realized that it would be much more efficient if there were one central organization that evaluated materials for use in organic production instead of each agency trying to do it themselves. The Organic Materials Review Institute performs this function.

By Roger Plant

What in the world is OMRI anyway?

Headquartered in Eugene, Oregon, OMRI (the Organic Materials Review Institute) is in the business of helping ensure the integrity of inputs for organic use.

At OMRI we follow the science showing that organic farming practices are good for the planet, for people, and for the farmer’s bottom line. OMRI does not take political positions or sides in the debates concerning organics. We see needs and opportunities and focus on the known facts when it comes to input materials for organic production. We see that there is a growing number of consumers who want food grown without a bunch of synthetics. We see agriculture operations that want to be gentle on the soil and water that they and their neighbors rely on. OMRI strives to meet the needs of both consumers and the Ag industry.

OMRI works to develop clear information and guidance about input materials so that producers know which products are appropriate for organic operations. Created over 25 years ago by certifiers, OMRI is a nonprofit that provides an independent review of products, such as fertilizers, pest controls, livestock health care products, and numerous other inputs that are intended for use in certified organic production and processing.

Over these 25 years, thousands of operators (organic and non-organic) have used OMRI Listed® products because they are credible and meet the rigors established, regulated and enforced by the USDA.

OMRI’s mission is “to support the growth and trust of the global organic community through expert, independent and transparent verification of input materials.” By focusing on exclusively reviewing input materials, we make certifiers’ jobs simpler and the certification process more efficient for organic producers. The expert scrutiny we bring to the sector helps to minimize fraud and errors. We work hard to help the industry maintain an impartial, level, trustworthy playing field. If you want a greener product—be it more nutritious, more ecologically sustainable, or more socially responsible—we have a role to play in making it possible.

But it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition.

Maybe you consider yourself staunchly pro-organic. Or maybe you’re more focused on particular values within organics, than the movement as a whole. Maybe you simply want to avoid fouling up the water because you love to fish. But no matter your level of organic enthusiasm, ask any farmer and you won’t get a debate on this one point: “It’s not easy being green.”

In the world of ag, organic operators have the ongoing challenge of what input products (fertilizers, soil amendments, compost, livestock feedstocks, sanitizers) they can use, without risk of losing their USDA organic certification. Or if they’re not certified, maybe operators are simply seeking a cleaner or more environmentally benign product. In either case, it’s often a difficult, time-consuming hunt to find the right products.

OMRI works to make being green a little easier.

Part of what OMRI does is help operators find that elusive truth by making sure input products with organic integrity are easy to find and identify.

By developing clear information and guidance about input materials and re-evaluating our processes on an ongoing, regular basis, OMRI helps assure our stakeholders which products are appropriate for organic operations. Our information is definitive. Our data is truthful.

We support producers and input manufacturers by reviewing their products against the organic standards to assure that they meet those manufacturer’s goals. Acceptable products are then OMRI Listed and appear in the printed OMRI Products Lists© and on OMRI’s free website searchable database, so it is easier for farmers, inspectors and certifiers to find organically compliant input products.

The online database, available in English and Spanish, is a powerful resource for those seeking inputs to meet their or their client’s needs. We even have a YouTube video ( that explains how to best utilize our website database search engine. The video shows how to browse and verify that you are using OMRI Listed® products, as well as how to find generic materials allowed for use under the U.S., Canadian and Mexican organic standards.

So, we think organics really matter and that there should be help in making it happen. And maybe the sky isn’t falling. And definitely, farmers can make a difference. And whether you are currently active in organic production, transitioning to organics, or are just looking to keep the fish happy, OMRI can give you solid information you can count on.

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