Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Organic Certification Process

Today, I will continue with questions from the Guidebook for Organic Certification.  I have included a couple of my own questions with links that I have found to be very helpful.  Hope they are to you too.

Q.  How long does it take to get certified as organic?

     In order to sell a certified organic crop the land on which it was grown must be free of prohibited substances for 36 months prior to the harvest of the first organic crop. Having documentation detailing the actual day, or at least the month, of last prohibited material application is necessary. If the only information details a prohibited material was applied “in the spring,” then the date chosen will be June 21, the last day of spring. No genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or seeds treated with prohibited synthetic materials can be used during the transition time to organic production. It is not required that certified organic seed be used during the transition years.
     A farmer has their first organic inspection during the growing season for which they plan to sell the organic crop. He/she could choose to be inspected during the transition year, but this is not necessary. The certification application should be submitted no later than three months prior to the date when the first organic harvest is anticipated. Many certification agencies encourage applications in March or April and charge a late fee for applications received after that time. There will be a place on the application where the farmer can clarify when he/she needs his/her organic certification to be completed in order to sell the organic crop. The organic inspection must take place during the growing season of the crop to be certified.
     Livestock have slightly different requirements. Poultry must be managed organically from the second day of life, therefore day old chicks from any source may be purchased and then subsequently fed and managed organically. Animals for meat such as hogs, lambs, beef, etc. must be managed organically from the last third of gestation within their mothers. For example, if a first time organic beef farmer has calves in the spring and wishes to feed his own hay and feed to the mothers who will give birth to organic calves, he should get his cropland certified the year before the first organic calves are to be born, so the brood cows will be eating certified organic feed during the last third of gestation. Organic feed can also be purchased, if certification the year before is not possible. Organic certification agencies cannot retroactively certify crops from a previous year, the fields must be inspected when the crops are growing. These brood cows can never be sold as organic meat themselves, but they may birth organic animals. Once brood cows have birthed organic calves, they must remain under organic management in order to continue birthing organic calves. Certification agencies may or may not allow organic brood cows to remain organic after the use of prohibited health products or non-organic feed, when the cow is not in the last third gestation or lactating for their organic calves. Ask your agency what they allow, or if the National Organic Program has clarified this issue through guidance or an updated regulation.

Q.  How much does it cost to be certified organic?
Each certification agency has its own cost structure, but generally there is an annual certification fee, a charge for the inspection and possibly user fees (a percent of annual organic gross sales.) For most non-livestock operations, it will cost between $400 and $1,000 per year to maintain organic certification. Organic livestock operations may have additional costs.

Q.  Are there grants to help with organic certification costs?
Money has been available on a year-by-year and state-by-state basis from the USDA and administered by the various State Department of Agricultures. In MO contact Bart Hawcroft, Marketing Specialist, 573-526-6666,
Q.  What are the ongoing costs?
Organic certification is an annual process, with annual inspection and annual fees. User fees based on annual organic sales can be paid quarterly, yearly or by each organic sale, depending on the situation and certification agency policy.

Q. Who are the organic certifying agencies in MO?
There are no organic certifying agencies located in MO.  However, there are many agencies that will certify farms in MO.  For a listing of organic certifiers visit the Missouri Organic Association website.  Another great place to compare organic certifiers side-by-side is the Rodale Institute website.

No comments:

Post a Comment