Most Often-Asked Organic Certification Questions
Farm Business Management Update, August/September 2004
By Catherine Cash, Independent Organic Inspector
1. How do I get certified - where do I begin?
Answer: The first thing you have to do is choose a certifying company from the list at the National Organic Standards (NOP) site http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/CertifyingAgents/Applicants.html. Then request an application(s). Fill it out carefully, send it and your farm plan and field history in, and wait to receive feedback from the certifying company. After they have what they need they will assign you an inspector. The inspector will then contact you, set up an inspection time, inspect and write up a report with recommendations. The certifier reviews the report and comes back with his decision.
2. Does Virginia certify farms any more?
Answer: No, due to budget cuts.
3. I'm having a hard time getting information on organic certification. I tried to figure it out on my own but I don't understand the National Organic Standards (NOP). Isn't there an easier way?
Answer: It's not as bad as it might seem. It might be helpful to look at some certifiers' on line applications to get an idea of what questions you'll be asked. These can be found at http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/CertifyingAgents/Applicants.html.
4. I don't make that much money doing organic. Do I need to get certified?
Answer: There is a $5000.00 rule: if you make $5,000.00 or less with the organic side of your operation you do not have to be certified to call yourself "organic." HOWEVER, you must maintain all of the same records that a certified entity would have to maintain. And the USDA has the right to inspect your operation.
5. How long will the process take?
Answer: As little as a couple of months - but possibly more. It depends on the certification company, how fast they get necessary documents from you, how long the inspection takes etc.
6. Can an inspector help us with the process?
Answer: An inspector/consultant can work for a farmer/producer either on a consultant basis or as an inspector, but not both within a two-year time period (conflict of interest).
7. Can you recommend a certifier?
Answer: I can give you the names of some certification companies I work for, but I cannot recommend one particular one. I recommend a visit to the NOP website's certification agency's page at http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/indexIE.htm
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