Steps to Organic Certification

I think Organic lifestyle
is the future. I am a better farmer because
I go through the process. But it really opens doors, because there are a lot of
blueberries out there. I’m proud to be
certified organic. The USDA organic regulations
describe the specific standards required for you to use the word
“organic” on a cultivated crop, wild crop, livestock product, or
processed product. The USDA National
Organic Program administers these regulations, with substantial input from its
citizen advisory board and the public. Certification verifies that
your farm or handling facility complies with the USDA organic
regulations and allows you to sell, label,
and represent your products as organic. Organic certification provides
the consumer assurance that the product’s organic
integrity has been maintained. Being certified organic is definitely a direct benefit
to our business, it’s given us a foot in the
door into retailers who wouldn’t otherwise bother
with us. It’s given us
a really broad market. I think it really adds value to
your product. I think it puts a statement into
your business that you’re willing
to meet certain criteria that go above and beyond. Your farm or handling facility
may be certified by a private, foreign, or State entity that
has been accredited by the USDA. These entities are called
certifying agents and are located throughout the
United States and around the world. Certifying agents are
responsible for ensuring organic products meet all USDA
organic requirements. Someone who is interested in
applying for organic certification needs to be proactive about
this and think ahead of when they want to market a
product as organic because the certification
process takes time. And we need the farm
and the handler to realize that there are several
steps in the process that have to take place
in order to ensure organic integrity and to ensure that we can make
the best decision possible about that product that is going
to market There are five basic steps to
obtain organic certification. Step one is to adopt organic
practices and then to submit an
application and fees to a certifying agent. Your certifier will ask you for
information about your business, including A history of substances
applied to land during the previous three years, details about the organic
products grown, raised, or processed, and a written
Organic System Plan describing your practices
and any inputs you wish to use. While the certifying agent
cannot consult or offer you advice about your
specific operation, they are there to provide
technical assistance and direct you to resources that
can assist you in developing approved practices
and maintaining compliance with organic requirements. So the organic system plan is
essentially an agreement between the certification agency and the business that is
applying for certification. The organic system plan is what
it says, it’s a plan and it can change and it can be adjusted
as time goes on. But, it’s a plan where
the certified operation is laying out all of
their different practices and their procedures and how they are going to
protect the integrity of the organic products
as they go through their system. The organic system plan was actually a really great
opportunity to kind of come together and get an
overview of the entire farm operation. With the system plan we are able
to put together more of a holistic idea of what we are
trying to accomplish here. The organic system plan is
essentially a business plan. And a plan for laying out and
being thoughtful and forward thinking about the steps that the
operation is going to take to ensure from seed
all the way to packaging that the organic integrity of
the product was maintained. After the application
is submitted, step two of the certification
process is for the certification
agency to review your written application
and organic system plan. A representative of the
certifying agency will review your application for
completeness and evaluate if your practices
comply with USDA Organic regulations. They will contact you
with any questions or to request
additional information. We are going to be looking at what was put down on paper and
then go out and compare it to actual practices in the field
or at the handling facility. To see if what is down on paper, matches what is going on
in reality. The third step of the
certification process is for the certification agency
to assign an inspector to visit your operation. The inspector will walk through
your fields or facility making observations. They will also conduct
interviews of you and your employees, and audit your records in order to evaluate if you are
following your Organic system plan, have a transparent and complete
recordkeeping system in place, and are meeting all requirements
of the USDA organic regulations. The inspector’s role is to
simply make observations and to record those observations
and verifications in an inspection report. The inspector is not making a
certification decision. The inspector is the eyes and
the ears for the certification agency and then their report is going
to come back to the certification agency to
make that final decision. I look forward to inspection
day. It’s a time where I’m able to
sit down and go over all the
paperwork of course. That’s maybe not the fun part, the fun part is showing the
inspector the ground and really going over what
we have going on here. It’s not a scary process,
it’s very friendly. Once the inspection is complete, the inspector sends the report
to the certifying agent for review. The fourth step of
the certification process is for your certifying agent to
review the inspector’s report. A certifier will evaluate the
report from the inspector, as well as the information you
submitted, to determine if your business
and products meet organic requirements. The review may result in the
issuance of an organic certificate or in the identification of
issues that need to be corrected before certification can be
granted. Step 5 of the certification
process is the issuance of an organic
certificate by the certifying agent. Once an organic certificate is
issued, you will be able to sell your
products with an organic label. If it is determined that your
practices don’t comply with organic requirements, your request for certification
would be denied. After correcting the issues, you would be able to reapply
for certification. Once certified organic, you must renew your
certification annually. Renewing your certification is
accomplished by submitting an annual update
to your Organic System Plan and paying annual fees
to your certifier. An annual inspection, along with
a review of that inspection will be conducted by your
certifier to determine if your business
remains in compliance. For more information on
organic certification, visit the USDA National
Organic Program website.

3 thoughts on “Steps to Organic Certification

  1. Great video, If we have crop growing in different country and we want to have it organic certified in US , what is the process ?

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