What is USDA Organic Certification? And How to Get It?

Produce that is cultivated, processed, and stored without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, or irradiation is considered to be organic. The term “organic” refers to a certain method of cultivating and processing food, and it is defined as such:

Rather than artificial solutions, farmers that have obtained a USDA Organic Certification employ a variety of different technologies, both old and modern, in conjunction with scientific study to preserve ecological harmony. Through practices like crop rotation, cultivation, and composting, they can work with nature to restore the nutrients that have been depleted from the soil. Because of their commitment to eradicating pests and illnesses without the use of conventional pesticides, the soil is now in better condition, which in turn results in plants that are in better condition.

How Can One Obtain USDA Organic Certification?

The responsibility of ensuring that USDA organic goods adhere to all organic criteria falls on the shoulders of certifiers. The organic certification process begins with the following steps:

  1. The farm or company must first adopt organic farming techniques before selecting a certifying agency that is recognized by the USDA and submitting an application together with the required fees to the agent.
  2. The application is examined by the certifying agency to ensure that all activities are per the USDA’s organic rules.
  3. An on-site examination of the applicant’s operation will be carried out by an inspector.
  4. The certifying agent looks at the application as well as the report from the inspector to assess whether or not the applicant conforms with the organic rules set out by the USDA.
  5. The organic certificate may be obtained from the certifying agency.
  6. Your organic farm or company must go through a process of yearly review and inspection to keep its organic certification current.

Procedures for USDA Certification

Construct a blueprint for an organic system. The organic certification procedure revolves around the organic system plan as its central organizing principle. It is the responsibility of the producer or handler who is seeking certification to create this document, which outlines how an operation will comply with the requirements based on the particular qualities of that activity.

Plans may vary according to the nature of the business and the requirements, but regardless, they include all aspects of the farming or handling systems, including tilling, grazing, harvesting, storing, and transporting the produce. They also detail the compounds that are allowed to be used throughout the growing or handling process, the monitoring techniques for organic systems, the recordkeeping systems, and the barriers that prevent commingling with goods that are not organic or contact with substances that are forbidden.

The second step is to put the organic system strategy into action. Have a certifying agent look it over before you use it. Organic enterprises must get certification from one of many private, international, or state agencies that have been approved by the USDA. These organizations are known as certifying agents, and you can find them not just in the United States but also in other parts of the globe. It is the duty of certifying agencies to check if organic goods fulfill all requirements outlined in the organic standards.

Inspection of items received is the third step. A certifying agent will conduct an on-site inspection of every enterprise that applies for organic certification. The in-depth nature of these inspections from top to bottom varies according to the kind of farm or institution being examined. For instance, an inspection of fields, conditions of the soil, crop health, strategies for the control of weeds and other agricultural pests, water systems, storage places, and equipment are all included in this category when it comes to crops. The inspection of feed production and purchase records, feed rations, animal living conditions, preventative health management practices (such as vaccinations), health records, and the number of animals present on the farm, as well as their condition, are all part of the livestock inspection requirements. An auditor examines the receiving, processing, and storage spaces that are used for organic raw materials and completed goods at a facility that is either responsible for the handling or processing of the goods.

The fourth step is to have the inspection report reviewed by a certifying agent. Following an inspection of procedures on the farm or at the facility and a comparison of those procedures to the organic system plan, the inspector will deliver their findings to the certifying agent. In addition to the inspection points that were discussed before, the inspector also provides an evaluation of the danger of contamination from forbidden materials and may even collect samples of the product, the soil, or the tissue if it is deemed necessary to do so. The inspector will also analyze possible dangers and crucial control points, as well as verify that suitable processes are in place to avoid contamination. After that, the certifying agent is given all of the results to go through and evaluate.

The fifth step is to get a verdict from the certifier. A certifying agency will give an organic certificate to an operation that lists the items that may be marketed from that operation as organic if the operation is found to comply with the requirements. The organic farm or facility must undergo an inspection at least once every year to keep its certification current, and it continually revises its plan as it makes adjustments to the techniques that it employs.

Why Obtain Certification from the USDA: Benefits:

Acquiring organic certification from the USDA is a clever and ethical business decision that may benefit a farmer, a store, or any other kind of company. However, just stating that something is “organic” is not enough. You have a responsibility to check if the product in question has the USDA Organic Seal of Approval.

The USDA National Organic Standard Seal not only demonstrates your continued dedication to a healthy world but also provides customers and purchasers with the assurance that the product they are purchasing satisfies the exacting standards for organic certification set out by the USDA. Your goods will become more marketable and lucrative as a result of this. The question now is, how can you get started with the process of being certified organic by the USDA?

Are You Eligible to Get USDA Certificate?

Contacting a reputable organic certifying agency is the most effective approach to determine whether or not your farm or product is qualified to get organic certification from the USDA. The National Organic Program may provide accreditation to a certifying agency specializing in organic products (NOP).

Your USDA certification consultancy agency will assist you with the planning process, evaluate your product, and provide you a license to use the name “organic” while selling your goods, so making sure you choose the appropriate one is very important.

Who Meets the Criteria?

In general, if you meet one of the following requirements, you may be qualified to get organic certification.

  • A farmer or animal farmer who raises their products following organic standards.
  • A processor of organic foods, fibers, or textiles. May also process organic feed.
  • A person who works with organic goods and handles them in some capacity, such as a broker, packer, wholesaler, or distributor.
  • a proprietor of a restaurant that serves organic food.
  • A store that focuses on selling organic goods or food as its primary line of business.
  • A distributor or retailer of organic goods.
  • An organic product manufacturer who also owns the brand.

However, not everyone is eligible to get organic certification from the USDA. To begin, your product must comply with the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.

This list will inform you which synthetic and non-synthetic compounds, as well as those that are naturally occurring, are allowed to be used in organic production and handling processes, and which ones are not. Because of the many requirements that the USDA has in place, it’s possible that you won’t be able to get the organic certification at all.

Is This the Best Choice for You?

The process of obtaining organic certification from the USDA is continuous and needs commitment. For instance, were you aware that in certain instances, in order to obtain certification as organic, you need to comply with the requirements years in advance?

The National Organic Program guidelines demand that organic crops be cultivated on land that has not been treated with any banned pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers for three years prior to the planting of the crop.

In order to get organic certification, you will need to examine not just the final product but also your complete production process.

How Much does it Cost to Get Certified as Organic?

The actual prices or fees associated with certification might vary greatly based on the certifying agency, as well as the size, nature, and level of complexity of your business. Costs associated with obtaining certification might vary anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Ask your certifier about the cost structure and payment cycle before you submit your application or first hire a USDA certification consultant. There is often a price for applying, a fee to renew the license annually, an assessment based on the total yearly output or sales, and inspection fees.

Is There Going to Be a Period of Transition?

Yes. Any land that is utilized for the production of raw organic commodities must have had any compounds that are forbidden applied to it in the preceding three years. You are not permitted to: until the whole 36-month transition period has passed.

USDA offers help in the form of both financial and technical assistance throughout the transition phase. You may also use the USDA Organic Portal to get access to several financing alternatives, conservation initiatives, and other programs and services that are tailored to the organic industry.

Your organic certification will stay valid forever, providing there are no difficulties.

The Application Process

In order to sell your product under the “organic” label, you are required to get certification from an approved agency that is part of the National Organic Program (NOP). Your first step should be to choose an organic certifying agency. Obtain the application forms for your agency, and then fill them out. Your agent will arrange a site inspection as soon as they have finished reviewing your application and have concluded that you conform with the NOP rules and requirements.

The Inspection:

A credible organic certification agency will always organize a visit to your organic production and processing location to do an on-site inspection at some point throughout the certification process. The inspection will determine whether or not the information that you provided in your application is honest and correct. Your inspector will need to see your activities to validate that your product has not been tainted with any restricted ingredients, and they will need to witness them in action. Your inspector will perform an exit interview with you before the inspection is complete and will inform you about any faults that were found.


Following the completion of your inspection, your inspector will compile a report detailing the findings that he or she discovered. The report, application file, and exit interview are all looked through once more to confirm that they are in line with the National Organic Program. You will be granted permission to name your product or firm as USDA Certified Organic if your organic certification agency has no reservations about the application and all payments have been paid in full. You could still be certified even if there are some small issues to be resolved, provided that you promise to do so within a reasonable amount of time.

Thousands of producers and handlers continue to engage in these operations so that their goods may be marketed as organic, although the certification system is quite stringent.

Your organic certification will continue to be valid for an undetermined amount of time provided there are no issues. You will only lose your certification if you willingly hand it in, if the certifying agency decides to suspend or revoke it, or if you do it yourself. There is no other way for you to lose your certification.


The process of organic certification is what permits foods and other agricultural goods to be labeled as organic in the marketplace. In principle, any company that is directly engaged in the production of food may become certified. This includes businesses that provide farmers with seeds, businesses that process food, businesses that sell food, and businesses that serve food. The National Organic Program (NOP) of the USDA was responsible for implementing federal standards for organic goods in the year 2002. Organic standards address issues such as the quality of the soil, the management of pests and weeds, the use of input resources, and the care of animals with compassion. For a producer to use the phrase “organic” or the USDA Organic logo on food, feed, or fiber products, they are needed to meet certain NOP requirements, which form the foundation of the organic certification process. These standards may be found here.

The application procedure, as well as product inspection and certification, are all required for organic certification.

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