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Organic Certification

An Overview

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  • NOP established national standards for organically labeled products.
  • USDA approves organizations or persons to become "certifying agents."
  • Certifying agents certify that production and handling practices meet the national standards
  • Producers or handlers who sell $5000 per year labeled or represented as "organic" must be certified.

Certification Procedure

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  • Producer obtains "Certification Application Packet" from accredited certifying agent of their choice.
  • Producer pays applicable fees and submits completed application which includes: (1) History of substances applied to the land for the previous three years, (2) Organic products being grown or processed, (3) Organic plan, which includes practices and substances used in production.
  • Certifying agent reviews application for certification eligibility.
  • Inspector, assigned by certifying agent, conducts on-site inspection of the applicant's operation.
  • Certifying agent reviews the information submitted by the applicant and the inspector's report. (If review and inspection show compliance with the requirements, the agent will issue a certificate.)
  • Certified operations must submit updated organic plan, pay fees, and be re-inspected each year.
  • USDA or the certifying agent may conduct unannounced inspections at any time to enforce the regulations.
  • Certifying agents or USDA will conduct residue tests of organic products if there is reason to believe that products have been contaminated with prohibited substances.

Crop Standards

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  • Land will have no prohibited substances for at least three years before harvest of an organic crop.
  • Use of genetic engineering, ionizing, radiation, and sewage sludge is prohibited.
  • Soil fertility will be managed through crop rotations and cover crops, supplemented with animal and crop waste materials and allowed synthetic materials.
  • Preference will be given to use of organic seeds, but exceptions can be made under specified conditions.
  • Crop pests, weeds and diseases will be controlled primarily through management practices. When these practices are not sufficient, a biological, botanical, or synthetic substance on the approved national list may be used. (See:

Livestock Standards

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  • Animals for slaughter must be raised under organic management from the last third of gestation, or no later than the second day of life for poultry.
  • Must feed 100% organic feeds, but may also provide allowed vitamin and mineral supplements. (See:
  • Animals cannot be given growth hormones or antibiotics. (Producers are prohibited from withholding treatment from a sick or injured animal, however animals treated with a prohibited medication cannot be sold as organic)
  • Animals must have access to the outdoors, including pasture for ruminants.
  • Animals may be temporarily confined only for reasons of health, safety, the animal's stage of production, or to protect soil or water quality.