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Why Go Organic?

Transitioning to organic farming and obtaining certification represents a significant step towards fostering a more sustainable and environmentally-conscious approach to agriculture. Organic farming methods emphasize natural soil fertility, crop rotation, and responsible land management, resulting in nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, and grains that nourish both body and soul.

Obtaining organic certification opens doors to premium markets and niche consumer segments that prioritize organic products. Certified organic farmers often command higher prices for their produce, providing a valuable economic incentive for making the transition.

While the benefits of organic farming are abundant, the journey is not without its challenges.  That's where we come in.

At Farmers Alliance, we're committed to supporting farmers every step of the way on their organic certification journey. Through education, advocacy, and community-building initiatives, we strive to empower farmers to embrace sustainable practices and cultivate thriving community-based food systems. Together, we can build a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable food system for future generations.

The Organic CertificationProcess

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On-Site Inspection

An inspector will conduct an on-site inspection of your operation.

Annual Recertification Process

Update Certifier

You provide an annual update to your certifying agent

Annual Review

Your certifying agent reviews the application and the inspector's report to determine if your operation still complies with the USDA organic regulations.

The USDA Organic Requirements for certification vary depending on the scope of the operation.

Click HERE to learn more

Crop Producers

Current organic regulations require a period of 36-months/3 years for crop producers transitioning a conventional operation to organic. The transitional period ensures the land is free from all prohibited substances.

Livestock Operators

Livestock operators can convert their operation to organic in 1-3 years.

Processors and Handlers

Individuals and facilities who label or represent as organic -- like butchers, bakers, distillers, packagers, etc -- must be certified organic.

Wild Crops

Organic regulations governing wild crops are similar to organic regulations governing cultivated crops. However, for a crop to be considered wild, operators must abstain from watering, feeding/fertilizing, and otherwise managing the crop.

Additionally, wild crops must be harvested in a manner that does not cause harm to the natural environment.

Mentorship Programs

Many transitioning operators benefit from guidance during this stage of the certification process. The Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP) offers a comprehensive mentorship program that pairs experienced organic farmers with transitioning farmers.

Adopt Organic Practices

Before applying for Organic Certification you should adopt organic practices. Each operational scope has specific regulations which must be followed.

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Certification

Your certifying agent issues you your organic certificate!

Once your application meets organic regulations, your certification agency will arrange an inspection at your site. This inspection is crucial to check if what you're doing matches what you've written in your Organic System Plan.

During the visit, the inspector will:

  • Watch how things are done on your farm or facility

  • Confirm that you're following the procedures outlined in your plan

  • Point out any areas where there might be issues with keeping things organic

  • Report their findings back to the certification agency
     

To do this properly, the inspector will:

  • Go through all your fields, even ones that are in transition or not organic yet

  • Check out your equipment and how you store things

  • Look at your records to make sure everything adds up

  • Follow the trail of your products to make sure they're really organic

  • Double-check your inventory to make sure it matches your records
     

Getting ready for your inspection is important. Have all your records ready and make sure the inspector can get to all parts of your farm or facility.

Keep in mind, the length of the inspection depends on how big your operation is. Small farms might only take a few hours, but larger places could take days to inspect properly.

On-Site Inspection

An organic inspector will visit your operation to assess your practices. They'll ensure your operations align with your OSP and organic standards.

After you submit your application your chosen certifying agency will verify that the information you provided is sufficient and that your operation complies fully with organic regulations.

During this stage of the certification process, Its common that your agency may reach out to you with questions or requests for additional information. Its in your best interest that you respond to all communication promptly and thoroughly as failure to do so during this stage in the process will delay the certification process. 

Submit Application

Submit your application as well as any fees required. A certifying agent then reviews the application to verify that your practices comply with USDA organic regulations.

Applications are best sent near the end of your transition period. Many certification agencies have transitioned to online application systems so when you are ready, contact your preferred certification agency to request application materials or set up your online account.

 

The application will require you develop an Organic System Plan (OSP), a comprehensive document required for organic certification that outlines how a farm or production facility will adhere to organic standards.

Everyone seeking organic certification–whether they are applying for initial certification or renewing their certification–must submit an Organic System Plan (OSP).

Organic system plans vary based on an operations size, scope, and location.

Developing an OSP can be complex, but it provides a clear framework for transitioning to and maintaining organic production. It helps farmers and producers systematically address the requirements of organic certification, ensuring that all aspects of their operation are aligned with organic principles.

Click HERE to learn more about OSPs

*You should plan to submit your application 3-6 months BEFORE you wish to harvest and/or sell organic products as fields must be inspected prior to their first organic harvest.

Prepare Application

Fill out the application provided by your chosen certifier. You'll also need to create an Organic System Plan (OSP) detailing your farming and processing practices as a part of your application.

A certifier is an accredited organization responsible for assessing and verifying that agricultural products and practices comply with organic standards set forth by the National Organic Program (NOP). During the transition to organic farming, choosing the right certifier is a crucial step. Certifiers play a pivotal role in guiding farmers and producers through the certification process, ensuring adherence to strict organic standards and practices.

When considering which certifier to choose for your organic certification journey, it's crucial to find one that fits your needs. A significant aspect of this is ensuring the certifying agency hires inspectors who are local to your area. This localization is important because these inspectors need to understand the unique farming practices, climate conditions, and challenges specific to your region.

Having local inspectors can help you save money. If inspectors have to travel a long distance to reach your farm, it can result in higher expenses. Additionally, living costs and wage standards vary across different states and regions, so certifiers might need to pay more to attract and retain inspectors in certain areas. Opting for a certifier that employs local inspectors can help mitigate these additional costs, ultimately benefiting you.

Moreover, regulations for organic farming may differ from state to state. Inspectors must stay informed about these regulations to effectively carry out their duties. By hiring inspectors who are familiar with the local rules and requirements, certifiers can avoid the need for extra training, potentially reducing certification fees.

In summary, selecting the right certifier and ensuring they utilize local inspectors can streamline the certification process and make it more cost-effective. By considering these factors, you can make informed decisions that support your organic certification journey.

Choose a Certifying Agency

Select a USDA-accredited certifying agent that suits your needs. They'll guide you through the process.

Click HERE to find the one for you.

Once the inspector completes their on-site visit, your chosen certifying agency will go over their report. They'll compare what the inspector found with what you originally submitted in your application.

It's really important to stay on top of any questions or requests your certification agency might have at this stage. If they need more info from you and you don't respond quickly, it could slow down the whole certification process or lead to your certification being denied.

Final Review

After the inspection, your certifying agent will review the report. They'll provide feedback and guidance to ensure compliance with organic regulations.

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