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Steps to Become Certified Organic

  1. The producer or handler adopts organic practices, discontinues use of prohibited substances, and maintains these new management strategies for three years. Alternatively, if the producer or handler can prove that prohibited substances have not been used in their operation for the past three years, they may be able to move past this step without the three-year wait.  

  2. Develop an Organic System Plan (OSP). This plan is the foundation of the organic certification process. It should explain how the operation will comply with USDA organic regulations.

  3. Submit the OSP with the application package for review by a USDA accredited certifying agent.

  4. After the OSP is reviewed by a Certifier, the producer or handler will request an inspection of the farm/processing operation. Every operation that applies for organic certification is inspected on-site by an organic inspector. The inspector assesses the risk of contamination from prohibited materials, and may also take soil, tissue or product samples.

  5. After the on-site inspection, a certifying agent will review the inspection report. The inspector presents his or her findings and observations of practices on the farm or facility as they compare to the organic system plan.

  6. Upon review of the inspection report, the certifying agent will issue an organic certificate that names products that can be sold as organic by that operation. If the inspection revealed areas of noncompliance, the certifier will issue a "notice of noncompliance" and outline areas that need to be addressed before the organic certificate can be issued.

For more information, see What is Organic Certification.

To get an idea of what goes into an Organic System Plan (OSP), please see example templates for Crop and Livestock Farms (PDF) and Market Farms (PDF).