Organic certification for farmers, processors and handlers, and livestock operations.
The only way to become truly recognized for your dedication to producing and manufacturing organically is to become certified organic. Organic certification enhances the value of a product and makes it more marketable to the health and environmentally conscious consumer. The presence of the USDA organic and/or CCOF seal on a product guarantees to the consumer that the food they are purchasing has been grown and produced according to federal organic standards.
Find out more about organic certification for your business:
GROW: Organic Certification for Farmers
To be certified, organic land must be free of prohibited fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides for at least three years. Greenhouse operations which do not grow in the ground can be certified without this transition period.
Maintaining and Improving Natural Resources
Production practices on organic farms must maintain or improve the natural resources of the operation, including soil and water quality. “Natural resources” are the physical, hydrological, and biological features of your operation. This applies to all operations engaged in crop and animal production including greenhouses, poultry production, and other non-field organic production systems.
Farm Organic System Plans Include:
- Physical characteristics of the land and how it has been managed over the past three years to confirm eligibility for certification (land history is not required for non-field organic production systems)
- The crops you grow and your growing and harvesting practices
- Materials you use or plan to use including seeds and starts as well as inputs such as fertilizer
- The recordkeeping system you use to track input applications, the source of seeds and starts, and planting, harvest, and sales activities
MAKE: Certification for Processors/Handlers, Retailers, Brokers, & Private Labelers
Handler certification is for products and operations that produce or handle organic products. Certification for processed or packaged products requires that both the ingredients in the products and the facility within which they are processed, packaged, and/or labeled be certified.
Facilities must ensure that their practices include no commingling or cross-contamination with any conventional products or prohibited materials.
What Is the Difference Between a Processor and a Handler?
Not all handlers are processors, but all processors are handlers. Confused? Don’t be. Some operations don’t actually process, package, or label products. Examples include private label owners who have products manufactured by others, retail stores, and companies that broker or trade organic products. These operations can also be certified as handlers.
Handler Organic System Plans Include:
- The ingredients, formulations, and finished products
- Proposed labels
- Where and how the product is produced or processed
- Your recordkeeping system that tracks traceability and confirms that you sourced enough certified organic ingredients to match the amount of organic products sold
- NOP Standards Manual
- Handler Certification Support Package
- Help finding organic ingredients for your products
RAISE: Certification for Livestock Operations
Certification for livestock includes the land which animals have access to or graze on, the management practices for the animals, and the animals themselves. All grazing land and other accessible land where animals will be located must be free of prohibited fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides for at least three years.
Cows, sheep, pigs, and other mammals must have been managed organically from the last third of gestation. Poultry must be managed organically from the second day of life. Animals can only be fed certified organic feed, and, yes, this includes certified pasture too. Antibiotics are prohibited and only approved medicines can be used.
May Certified Livestock Commingle with Uncertified Livestock?
Of course they can! Certified and uncertified animals can be managed together but all must be fed only organic feed while together.
Livestock Organic System Plans Include:
- Physical characteristics of the land and how it has been managed over the past three years to confirm that it is eligible for certification (see requirement for farm certification)
- Description of the management practices for the land and the animals, including the origin of the animals
- The recordkeeping system used to track, among other things, sources and volume of feed given to the livestock, required pasture time for ruminant animals, and access to outdoors for poultry