Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Are you considering organic certification?

Authors
item Webber, Charles
item Shrefler, James - OSU, LANE, OK
item Taylor, Merritt - OSU, LANE, OK
item Roberts, Warren - OSU, LANE, OK
item Davis, Angela

Submitted to: Proceedings of Horticultural Industry Show
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: January 10, 2009
Publication Date: April 23, 2009
Citation: Webber III, C.L., Shrefler, J.W., Taylor, M.J., Roberts, W., Davis, A.R. 2009. Are you considering organic certification? In: Horticultural Industries Show, January 16-17, 2009, Ft. Smith, Arkansas. p. 232-234.

Interpretive Summary: Certified organic crop production is more than a list of do's and don'ts of acceptable and prohibited inputs or practices. Instead, it is a holistic approach to sustainable and healthy food production to enhance the well being of the consumer, while protecting natural resources during the process. Organic certification was developed in recognition of the necessity for consistent standards across the U.S. for the benefit of producers, processors, wholesalers, retailers, and consumers. Prior to establishment of federal guidelines for organic certification in 2002, a multitude of agencies and associations throughout the U.S. maintained a divergent list of acceptable inputs, production methods, and policies to determine organic certification. Differences in the certification standards invited marketing inconsistencies, misunderstandings, and misrepresentations concerning organic products. "The National Organic Program (NOP) develops, implements, and administers national production, handling, and labeling standards for organic agricultural products. The NOP also accredits the certifying agents (foreign and domestic) who inspect organic production and handling operations to certify that they meet USDA standards." Certification agencies may be private businesses or state government entities, and their geographic areas may overlap. A list of approved certifiers can be obtained from the NOP website. When considering certifying agencies, it is advisable for the producer to consider their marketing options and any preferences that may exist by potential buyers. To meet appropriate criteria, land must be treated organically for 3 years prior to harvesting a certified organic crop. The producer can contact a certifying agency at the beginning of the three year transitional period, or as late as the beginning of the third year. However, the producer should make sure they understand what can, and can not be done with the land, so they do not endanger their certification. The selected certification agency will supply the producer with the application forms, production standards, and certification requirements. Information required in the application packet will include a field history and map, details about the bordering land, plans for controlling pests, maintaining soil quality, production plans and inputs, crop harvest and storage. Once certified, the producer is subject to annual reports and on-site inspections. Organic certification now sanctions the marketing of "Organic" products produced under consistent guidelines and standards across the U.S. A prospective organic producer selects a certification agency that serves their area. The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) is a nonprofit organization that provides organic certifiers, growers, manufacturers, and suppliers an independent review of products intended for use in certified organic production, handling, and processing. Producers and handling (processing) operations that sell less than $5,000 a year in organic agricultural products do not need to be certified. Although exempt from certification, these producers and handlers must abide by the national standards for organic products and may label their products as organic.

Technical Abstract: Organic certification was developed in recognition of the necessity for consistent standards across the U.S. for the benefit of producers, processors, wholesalers, retailers, and consumers. Prior to establishment of federal guidelines (National Organic Program) for organic certification in 2002, a multitude of agencies and associations throughout the U.S. maintained a divergent list of acceptable inputs, production methods, and policies to determine organic certification. Differences in the certification standards invited marketing inconsistencies, misunderstandings, and misrepresentations concerning organic products. Certified organic crop production is more than a list of do's and don'ts of acceptable and prohibited inputs or practices. Instead, it is a holistic approach to sustainable and healthy food production to enhance the well being of the consumer, while protecting natural resources during the process. "The National Organic Program (NOP) develops, implements, and administers national production, handling, and labeling standards for organic agricultural products. The NOP also accredits the certifying agents (foreign and domestic) who inspect organic production and handling operations to certify that they meet USDA standards." Certification agencies may be private businesses or state government entities, and their geographic areas may overlap. A list of approved certifiers can be obtained from the NOP website. When considering certifying agencies, it is advisable for the producer to consider their marketing options and any preferences that may exist by potential buyers. All organic land must be treated organically for 3 years prior to harvesting a certified organic crop. The producer can contact a certifying agency at the beginning of the three year transitional period, or as late as the beginning of the third year. However, the producer should make sure they understand what can, and can not be done with the land, so they do not endanger their certification. The selected certification agency will supply the producer with the application forms, production standards, and certification requirements. Information required in the application packet will include a field history and map, details about the bordering land, plans for controlling pests, maintaining soil quality, production plans and inputs, crop harvest and storage. Once certified, the producer is subject to annual reports and on-site inspections. Organic certification now sanctions the marketing of "Organic" products produced under consistent guidelines and standards across the U.S. A prospective organic producer selects a certification agency that serves their area. Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) is a nonprofit organization that "provides organic certifiers, growers, manufacturers, and suppliers an independent review of products intended for use in certified organic production, handling, and processing." "Producers and handling (processing) operations that sell less than $5,000 a year in organic agricultural products do not need to be certified. Although exempt from certification, these producers and handlers must abide by the national standards for organic products and may label their products as organic."

Last Modified: 7/31/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page