How to get organic certification: A complete guide for a beginner


To get organic certification, it is essential to know the necessary steps needed so time isn’t wasted. But first, we must know:

What is organic certification?


Organic certification acts as verification or seal of approval. Which guarantees that the farms or facilities are abiding by the organic regulations. This allows producers to be able to sell & market their products as ‘organic’. Enticing the consumer into knowing that their product is of optimum quality.

Eligibility


The requirements to get organic certification comprises of investment in both the technical as well as financial aspects of farming your product. However it may seem daunting, the steps are rather simple:

The USDA organic label is backed by a certification system that verifies farmers or handling facilities located anywhere in the world comply with the USDA Organic Regulations. Certification entails five steps:

STEP 1: Developing an organic system:

This is the very basis of your journey to get organic certification. The system plan will comprise of the methods that abide by the regulations in accordance with your unique product. Where it be milk, apples or seeds, these products will have a different structure & approach to how it is grown. Hence the said method must be in line with the regulations set by your federal authorities. 

Also specifying the substances involved to be natural & organically friendly.

STEP 2: Applying the organic system:

You should present your organic plan to your certifying agent to give them an idea of what you have going on here. The certifying agent can be private or through the government. For example State entities have been deployed by the USDA. Think of them as the customs line at the airport, approving of everything in your baggage to be fit to travel. Travel into profits.

STEP 3: Examination:

Your operations will be thoroughly examined for any flaws or blemishes which might hinder your chance to achieve organic certification. The deciding factors inspected can include; the state of the soil, conditions in the workplace, the quality of seeds (if they are chemically tampered with), etc. For livestock, they use a similar approach, focusing on the feed of the animal including purchase records & living conditions of the animal. At a processing facility, an inspector evaluates the receiving & processing used for organic ingredients and final products.

STEP 4: Remarks:

Then, the certifying agent remarks the report containing the inspection of your certification plan, marking potential hazards & inconsistencies. The certifying agent can also take tissue samples from livestock to further inspect the quality of the meat involved. This procedure has to be taken care of by highly skilled professionals as they have the responsibility for the safety of millions of consumers potentially eating the product they will be approving.  

STEP 5: Decision:

The moment of truth, finally getting a decision from the certifying agent. If the operation checks out, the certifying agent issues a listing. The listing comprises of the products that a clear for organic certification from your portfolio. You are set to sale.

Major pointers to take care of


Since we now know the procedure & hurdles which are present to us in receiving the organic certification, we can now focus on how to stand clear of them.

Firstly, we need to ensure that you have all the necessary documents that are required for you to present to the certifying agent. A missed document may give the impression that you are not bothered about achieving the certification. Subsequently giving the impression that there might be inconsistencies in your plan as well.

Second, we need to ensure that you have read the requirements/eligibility criteria set by your respective certifying authority. Each clause is crucial since the intricate details during your inspection shall be thoroughly inspected. You might be able to pass all tests pertaining to the criteria but you don’t want to have your application canceled just because you didn’t read on a minor clause.

Then we must ensure that the samples you have presented, whether it be the tissue of your most healthy livestock or your highest quality produce, are accurate representations of the work you have put in during the grazing period. In rare cases, you might just pass the inspection, however, if there are complaints regarding your product you may face massive repercussions including lawsuits & sanctions filed by the certifying authority for tainting their seal of approval.

Lastly, you should present yourself as someone who genuinely cares about the environment & have a sense of realization of the importance of getting an organic certification. This makes you a reliable source in the eyes of the inspector, increasing your chances of being certified.

Benefits of being organically certified

Organic agriculture is a fast-growing sector in the U.S. as well as being the major revenue-generating source in terms of exports in Pakistan, creating jobs, and promoting economic growth and opportunities. There are more than 28,000 certified organic farms and businesses in the U.S. Which continues to grow in proportion to consumer demand for organic agriculture. In 2019, there was approximately $55 billion in U.S. retail sales.

The USDA organic regulations describe how the word “organic” or the USDA organic seal can be used on food, feed, or fiber products. These clear regulations create entrepreneurial opportunities for producers and processors that want to capitalize on consumer growth in the organic sector.

Becoming certified organic helps producers and handlers:

  • Receive premium prices for their products: Nowadays consumers, being fueled by the paranoia surrounding the pandemic are looking for options that strengthen their immune systems. Subsequently making them more susceptible to marketing strategies that surround organic & healthy solutions to their foods. 
  • Access fast-growing local, regional, and international markets: 
  • Support local economies: Agriculture & organic products that are not funded by major corporations are a rarity these days. Investing in an organic farmer that focuses on the niche of his consumer market will have more support from the people. Just because there is a less likely chance of him committing malpractices that might hinder the health factor of a product at the expense of it’s price. 
  • Access additional funding and technical assistance: Since the nature of operation is quite crucial in order to keep the process as pure & natural as possible, being certified organic can increase the chances of you receiving technical support.
  • Creating a healthier environment: Governments love anything that helps increase the standard of living of the people. An organic certification of your product can ensure support in the form of financial grants & subsidies provided by the government. As a mean of promoting the mission statement for a healthier environment for the country.

Why is it so expensive to get the organic certificate?


As wholesome & rewarding as an organic certification can be, let’s focus on the logistical factors as well. In order to be eligible for the certification, you need to comply by certain standards given by the certifying institution. These requirements do not come in cheap. You should be knowledgeable of the fact that “a few hundred” is a low estimate for certification. Often, it will cost around $1,200 for an organic processor to get certified, subsequently around $700 (or more) for an organic farm to receive certification. The hefty price tag, according to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is due to the more strenuous production, the absence of synthetic pesticide options, and better wages for producers.

However, there are ways to minimize the costs related to the certification, more focused on the production. That which may include,  Grow your own. …

  1. Be economical in managing supplies
  2. Buy supplies in bulk to receive adequate discounts
  3. Look for alternate healthy options minimizing on quality degradation
  4. Join a farmer union to receive help from other people in the field

Fresh fruits and veggies are more expensive to farm as compared to crops. Produce relies on human labor rather than machines, and machines are more efficient and cheaper in the long run.



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