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Am I Eligible for USDA Organic Certification?


Question: Am I Eligible for USDA Organic Certification?

Organic certification is a very big deal as it verifies that your farm, business or handling facility complies with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic regulations. Furthermore, certification allows your product to wear the USDA organic seal and means you can sell your products as truly organic. That said, before you can get certified, you'll need to make sure you're eligible for organic certification.

Answer the following questions:

  • Do you grow and sell organic crops that are intended as food for people or as organic livestock feed?

  • Do you grow plants that will be harvested as fiber used to add nutrients to the field?

  • Do you raise organic livestock that will be used for food or in the production of food, fiber, or feed?

  • Do you process single or multi-ingredient organic food products such as organic chopped tomatoes or mixed items such as baked goods or soup?

  • Do you harvest wild crops?

  • Do you process organic fibers or textiles?

  • Are you a handler of organic products, for example a broker, packer, wholesaler or distributor?

  • Do you own a restaurant or other dining establishment that cooks and sells organic food?

  • Are you a retailer who specializes in organic products or organic food?

  • Do you market organic products?

  • Have you been developing your own organic products, say shampoo, cleaners or essential oil sprays?

If you answered yes to one or more of the questions above, you may be eligible to apply for organic certification either as a producer or as a handler, so long as the you also fit the criteria below.

Other organic eligibility issues to consider:

In order to be eligible for organic certification, you must grow or process a product that can be certified and sold as organic. For example, you cannot certify "organic" water, because there's no such thing as certified organic water. Therefore, if your company only sells bottled water, well, you're ineligible.

Not only must you sell products that are eligible for certification, but your products must also meet the requirements of the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. This list is mandated by the Secretary of Agriculture and shows you which synthetic and non-synthetic substances are allowed or not allowed in organic products and in organic production and handling operations.

After making sure you fit the eligibility requirements above, you should also know that in order to remain eligible for organic certification, you must be willing to follow the rules of the National Organic Program (NOP). Meaning, if you're unwilling to write an organic system plan, follow safe handling procedures, use organic labels correctly and so on, you're unlikely to achieve certification.

You can learn more about your own organic certification eligibility by contacting a local accredited certifying agent.

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