How to Apply for USDA Organic Certification
If you've taken the time and initiative to ensure that your processing or distribution process is truly organic, then the actual process of gaining USDA organic certification is fairly straightforward.
While variations apply due to specific circumstances, USDA organic certification can normally be divided into three phases.
Organic certification includes the application process, the company and product inspection and certification.
The Application Process: If you're planning to market your product as "organic" you must get certified by a National Organic Program (NOP) accredited agent. First choose your organic certification agent.
Obtain and fill out your agent's application forms and turn them in. After the agent reviews your application and decides that you're in compliance with NOP regulations and standards, your agent will schedule a site inspection.
The Inspection: A reputable organic certification agent will always schedule an on-site visit to inspect your organic production and handling site.
The inspection is conducted in order to ensure that your application information is truthful and accurate. Your inspector will need to see your operations and will want to verify that zero prohibited substances have come into contact with your product.
Before the inspection ends, your inspector will conduct an exit-interview with you. During the exit interview, the inspector will inform you about concerns or problems and answer any questions you may have.
Certification: After your inspection takes place, your inspector will write a report based on his or her findings. The report, applicant file and exit interview are again reviewed to ensure National Organic Program (NOP) compliance.
If your organic certification agent has zero concerns and all fees have been paid, you'll be allowed to label your product or company as USDA Certified Organic. If there are minor concerns you may be certified if you agree to solve the concerns within an appropriate time-frame.
If your agent feels that you are not fully NOP compliant you won't be certified until you make the necessary changes to become NOP compliant.
How Long Does Organic Certification Last?
Your organic certification will remain valid indefinitely if there are no problems.
The only way your certification will end is if you voluntarily surrender certification or if your certification is suspended or revoked by the certifying agent, the State Organic Program's governing State official, or the Administrator for violation of the Act or NOP regulations.