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Building Organic Partnerships: Sound and Sensible Certification Projects

Amy's Organic Garden in Charles City, VA.  Organic certification ensures the integrity of organic products around the world, and this initiative will make sure the process is accessible, attainable and affordable for all.

Amy's Organic Garden in Charles City, VA. Organic certification ensures the integrity of organic products around the world, and this initiative will make sure the process is accessible, attainable and affordable for all.

This is the seventeenth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

Making organic certification accessible, attainable, and affordable involves collaboration with many partners across the country and around the globe. To advance this work, USDA supports a diverse community of organic stakeholders.

Nonprofits, businesses, universities, state governments and other organizations lead a range of technical assistance, training, outreach and certification programs for organic farms and businesses.  These organizations provide the National Organic Program (NOP), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), with valuable feedback about how to keep organic certification sound and sensible and how to meet the needs of new and transitioning organic farmers. To support their work, USDA is awarding project contracts to 13 organizations that will advance the NOP’s Sound and Sensible initiative by identifying and removing barriers to certification and streamlining the certification process.

Here’s a summary of the exciting projects in store for the organic community:

  • The Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA) will use a blended teaching approach to help farmers understand the alignment between organic practices and food safety requirements.
  • California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) will conduct focus groups to explore barriers to certification with disadvantaged groups, develop a “10 Steps to Certification” reference guide and self-assessment, and conduct outreach sessions to candidate organic businesses.
  • Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers will produce videos for producers to outline the steps to organic certification.
  • The International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA) will produce a range of materials to support organic inspectors and farmers, including training modules that integrate sound and sensible principles into organic inspections and certification activities.
  • Massachusetts Independent Certification Inc., associated with Baystate Organic Certifiers, will develop training videos to dispel certification myths, an organic system plan consultant pilot program, training workbooks and information sheets, and a set of model organic system plans.
  • National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) will lead two projects. The first will focus on technical assistance support for organic farmers and will include a workshop series. The second project will result in a streamlined organic system plan template for organic farms, a compliance checklist and model inspection report, and tip sheets related to organic transition.
  • Northeast Organic Farmers Association – Vermont (NOFA-VT) will develop an organic mentoring program, provide technical assistance, and implement outreach activities.
  • Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) will share materials and approaches that address the unique cultural and communication needs of Plain and Amish farmers seeking organic certification.
  • Oregon Tilth Certified Organic (OTCO) will develop a pocket guide for organic certification and develop and implement an organic outreach and education program.
  • Organic Services will work with the NOP to develop guidelines for setting up, administering, and managing an internal control system for grower groups engaged in organic certification.
  • Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO) will engage in a technology project to develop a standardized tool for capturing the key elements of an organic system plan.
  • WILL Interactive, partnering with the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, will develop an interactive scenario-based video training program to help farmers navigate the elements of organic certification.
  • Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) will develop videos to illustrate the organic certification process for small and direct marketing farmers.

All of these projects will be completed by September 2015, and any materials developed under these contracts will be available through each organization’s website, via other organic partner sites and from the National Organic Program.  Organic certification ensures the integrity of organic products around the world.  We’re excited to launch these initiatives to ensure the process is accessible, attainable and affordable for all.

Visit our website for more details about all of the sound and sensible projects.

6 Responses to “Building Organic Partnerships: Sound and Sensible Certification Projects”

  1. David Lott says:

    An interested in NOP and all concerning organic certification .
    Best regards,
    David Lott

  2. Kari Gates says:

    In Texas they’re considering raising the fees associated with our Certification. Maybe a grant to help fund the Texas Dept. of Agriculture so the small farmers don’t have to pay their salaries and overhead would be helpful?
    Personally if the proposed fees are adopted our certification for a 3 acre farm will go from 705 to 9500.00 a year. that’s no typo that’s the proposed rate. As small market farmers we can barely afford the 705 a year in addition to other license and fees we pay Tx. Dept of Ag. We need help in our state.
    Spring Creek Organic Farm

  3. Ben [USDA Moderator] says:

    @David: Thanks for your interest in becoming certified organic. You can find information and resources about the process on the NOP website.

  4. Ben [USDA Moderator] says:

    @Kari: You might be interested in organic cost share assistance. To learn more about this program, visit our website. You will want to work through your State agency to apply for cost share assistance.

  5. Gabriel Valley Farms says:

    We are a wholesale nursery also certified through the Texas Department of Agriculture. According to their new proposed fees our projected cost would be over $18,000. And that’s no typo. We do take part in the cost re-reimbursement program and that helps but our yearly fee still costs us over $1000. TOFGA (Texas Organic Farmers & Growers Association is working hard to address these issues and was working on a proposal to partner with TDA to share the burden but there was not much time allowed to submit a proposal. They are our best hope to provide support.

  6. Marcia Litsinger says:

    Just wondering when the inspectors will start helping the farmers and not coming on with a confrontational approach. We don’t need to be told how to farm organically, most of have been doing it for years. The inspectors are not farmers and come trying to find something wrong instead of trying to help.

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