You've heard organic is better for the land and environment. You've heard there is a premium on organic products. You've decided organic is the way you want to go.
But where do you start?
Organic certification can be a confusing maze of paperwork, but you can eliminate some of this confusion by following the tips below.
Do your homework:
Visit the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) website to view the regulations. Alternately, request a hard copy of the requirements. This can be done from any certification agency or from the NOP.
Do a web search on organic certification. There are several sites out there to help you along your way.
Contact neighbors, friends, or anyone else you know who is certified organic as they can provide more help on how to do things then any certification agency can.
Certification agencies are prohibited from consulting clients on how to produce or process organic products. If you feel you'll need more help and advice, find a consultant. Certification agencies may be able to send you a list of people you can contact, or you can search the internet.
Although all certifiers in the United States certify to the USDA National Organic Program, they are not all run the same:
- Fee structures differ
- Strictness in interpretation of the NOP regulations may differ
- Deadlines, paperwork, etc may differ
- Programs offered may differ (i. e. some will offer additional certification programs to help you export your product to the European Union, the Swiss market, Japan, etc)
Talk to people currently certified; they can give opinions about the integrity, commitment and service of some of the certifiers.
Contact certifiers and ask for a quote of what your certification costs would be. Remember, just as fee structures differ, the process to deliver a quote may also differ.
Ask for all costs:
- Inspection estimate
- Basic Certification fee
- Additional charges for support, label review, subcontractors being certified on your behalf, percent of sales, etc.
A good site for comparing certification agencies is the New Farm website.
Contact your chosen agency:
Once you've chosen a certification agency you want to go with, contact them to find out the next steps you need to follow.
International Certification Services, Inc.
USDA National Organic Program (NOP)