Getting USDA organic certification status is an important business move if you are a farmer, retailer or restaurant owner. Just claiming that your product is organic is not enough because your products should carry the certified USDA Organic seal.
How to know if you are eligible for this certification?
You will need to contact an organic certifying agent who will help you with the planning process. He will inspect your product and eventually license you to use the term ‘organic’ to sell your product. The National Organic Program standards require that organic crops must have been grown on land that was free from pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers for three years since growth.
How much does the certification cost?
When it was initially launched the cost was around $750. Currently, the fees vary widely depending on the agent you choose.
How to apply for the certification?
It is normally divided into three phases – the application process, the company, and product inspection and certification.
The application process
To start with, choose your organic certification agent. Fill out your agent’s application forms and submit them. After the agent reviews your application and decides that you’re in compliance with National Organic Program (NOP) regulations and standards, he will schedule a site inspection.
A trusted organic certification officer will normally make a site visit to inspect your production processes. This is effected in order to check the truthfulness and accuracy of your given information. The inspector will check that zero prohibited substances have come into contact with your products. Further, there will be an exit interview, where he will inform you about his findings and whether you need to bring some measures to correct your processes or you are on the right track.
The inspector will produce a report based on his findings. Altogether, the report, application, and exit interview are verified to ensure compliance with NOP. If there is no issue and you have paid all the required fees, you will be allowed to label your products as USDA Certified Organic. However, if your agent considers that you need to implement important measures to become NOP compliant, chances are that you will not be certified. And, if there are only minor concerns, you may still be certified if you agree and guarantee to solve the concerns within a specific time-frame.
How long does the certification last?
Your organic certificate will remain valid for as long as there are no contradicting processes and you remain true to your commitment. The only ways that your certificate will become void are if you voluntarily surrender the certification or if you are suspended or revoked by the certifying body or the State Organic Program’s governing official for violation of the regulations.