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10 Ways Producers and Handlers Can Support Organic Integrity

How to help maintain and grow integrity in the organic industry

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Organic integrity may seem like a little thing when you've got so much else on your plate, but without it, all we've got is an industry of average goods. Without organic integrity what exactly would be the point of going through that hefty certification process?

With the above in mind, below are some excellent ways that organic producers and/or organic handlers can help improve integrity within the organic industry.

1. Make Sure Organics are for You

Organics are a lot of work. If you know you can't give your all, then organics may not be for you. If you're simply looking to create a trendy product and organic seems like the new black, then organics may not be a right fit.

There's too much involved with going certified organic to simply jump on the organic train without some real thought about why you're doing so. If you love organics. If you're already an organic advocate. If you really want to contribute food or products that do less harm. Well, then organics may be for you. Especially if you also know they'll work for, and be good for your business and bottom line.

When the pros of going organic for you personally, outweigh the cons - all that paperwork, extra costs, extra time, and so fourth - this is a great time to go organic. Learn more below...

2. Choose a Quality Certifying Agency

Not all organic certifying agents are created equally. When it comes to integrity, supporting clients and advocating for organics across the board, some agencies have a much better track record than others. Take your time, research and choose a certifying agent who rocks vs. an agent who is lackluster.

3. Handle & Label Organics with Care

As an organic producer or handler, how you manage your organics is key when it comes to maintaining integrity. Keep up on proper handling and labeling issues, don't allow organics and non-organics to co-mingle and let your customers know that these issues matter to you.

4. Follow the Rules

While NOP rules aren't perfect they are here for a reason and do help protect organic integrity. Try to maintain organic policy even if your agent isn't keeping track of you so well.

NOTE: If you don't like or agree with a rule, it's better to question it and try to change it rather than disregarding it as it stands - see below, Question the Rules. Check out the links below for easy ways to follow NOP rules.

5. Question the Rules

It's important to follow current organic policy. However, it's also smart to question shady organic policy that undermines organic integrity. Staying up to date on current happenings within NOP is wise, as is getting involved. Currently, while NOP insists some of their top priorities are clear standards, consumer protection and market access as well as an overall maintenance of organic integrity, some of the USDA'a actions say otherwise.

The organic industry can continue to grow and thrive while maintaining integrity, but it'll take work. It will also take those outside the USDA who freely question organic gray areas and shaky policy.

You can speak up for strict and consistent organic policy by staying informed, questioning odd policies and making your voice heard. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) usually holds two major meetings each year. These meetings are free and open to the public, so you can attend or send NOSB your thoughts on proposed NOP recommendations.

6. Give What You Can

Support awesome organic programs with funding donations when you can. If you don't have the extra cash, do something else cool for another organic business owner. Such as...

7. Be a Whistle Blower

When you see another organic business acting shady, report them. Don't just sit by and allow others to pull the organic industry down. Being a whistle blower is more than okay, it benefits the entire industry by clearing out the bad seeds who make organics look lame.

8. Educate Customers

One of the biggest organic advocacy steps you can take is to educate consumers about what real organics are and teach them about true organic integrity. The work you put into customer education pays off with more customers, plus, more importantly, knowledgeable customers.

Don't underestimate how confusing organics can be for consumers. You're around organics daily, but consumers at the store are confronted with fake organic labels, shady organics and conservative organizations telling them that organics don't make a difference.

9. Go Green & Ethical

Organics inherently hold eco-value, but overall there are some huge differences between "organic" vs. "eco-friendly" or "ethical." Be kind to your farm livestock, invest in green power and other eco-practices, and minimize your impact on the earth. Make your organic operation stand out as one with true, full-on integrity by going above and beyond basic organic policy.

10. Support Organics as a Consumer

You're more than an organic producer or handler, you're also a potential organic consumer. When shopping think like a smart organic consumer. Buy organics, especially from local, independently owned companies whenever possible. When consumers chose organics, we end up with an industry that's no longer considered "trendy" or utterly unique but rather the norm. Plus consistent purchases help drive organic prices down, which may seem bad if you're in the biz, but lower prices can equal higher income in the end.

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