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What Goes in an Organic System Plan?


Your organic system plan (OSP) is a key component of becoming certified organic. National Organic Program (NOP) standards require an OSP to help ensure that all organic producers and handlers incorporate and maintain organic quality and standards. Your organic certifying agent will help you figure out what should be included in your OSP. That said, if you're looking for a quick run-down of what's included in every OSP, below is a handy list to follow.

1. Practices & Procedures

All practices and procedures that will be performed and maintained, and the frequency with which they will be performed must be documented in your OSP.

Examples of practices and procedures documentation includes:

  • Current and future resource management.
  • Organic seed use.
  • Soil and water conservation practices intended - for example; tillage and irrigation methods.
  • Livestock management plans such as where animals will be kept and preventative health measures. 
  • Weed and pest control methods.
  • Tools and equipment used in your business.
  • How crops are managed and harvested.  

2. Substances Used

All substance used by the business must be documented in the OSP. Composition, source, location(s) where it will be used, along with documentation of commercial availability of each substance is covered.

Examples of substance use documentation includes:

  • Specific information on brand name and non-brand name substances. 
  • All ingredients in substances used must comply with NOP National List rules.
  • Planned locations for substances used must be described or documented on a map. For example, where an allowed synthetic substance is used.
  • Estimated sources of organic livestock feed.
  • Livestock vaccinations and animal drugs or treatments used or anticipated.

3. Monitoring Practices & Procedures

Monitoring practices and procedures must be documented in the OSP. This shows that an organic farm or business knows how to maintain quality standards.

Examples of monitoring method documentation includes:

  • When monitoring will be performed or scheduled.
  • How monitoring will be maintained and implemented.

Specific example:

On a farm that makes their own compost, the OSP would need to include how and when substances will be added to the compost, when and how the temperature of the compost will be taken and so fourth.

4. Recordkeeping Solutions

Organic certification is not only based on compliance with NOP standards, but on the ability to uphold those standards. This is why a precise description of the recordkeeping system you plan to use is necessary.

Examples of recordkeeping documentation includes:

All producers and handlers must demonstrate exactly how they are able to produce their organic product, how they manage their organic products and how they sell their organic products. A good recordkeeping system should record every aspect of the business, but as an example...

  • Field management for at least three years prior to going organic.
  • Every input, or substance, applied to soil, crop, or animal must be documented.
  • Field operations, planting dates, harvest dates, yield records and sales should all be included in the recordkeeping plan.
  • Livestock feed issues such as where the feed comes from and when animals are fed. 
  • Livestock health care records.
  • Sales and purchases of all livestock should be recorded.
  • Any organic products that are purchased, brokered, or otherwise handled and sold must be kept on the record.


5. Contamination & Commingling Prevention Methods

Management practices to prevent both contamination of organic products and commingling of organic and non-organic products on a split operation are required in the OSP. Of all the OSP components, contamination and commingling are two of the largest concerns. If a contamination of an organic product is discovered, a well-designed plan plus correct documentation is crucial. Unavoidable environmental contamination does occur, so proper planning and documentation is a must.

Examples of contamination and commingling prevention documentation includes:

  • How to prevent contamination of organic operations and products with prohibited substances. 
  • How to prevent non-organic and organic products from commingling in a mixed operation.


6. Additional Necessary Information

The organic certifying agent can request that other necessary information be included in the OSP, as long as said information helps the agent to evaluate compliance with NOP regulations. If a farm or business isn't sure that something should be included in the plan, it's best to ask the organic certifying agent or simply include it.


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