How to become a USDA Certified Organic Farmer


How to become a USDA Certified Organic Farmer


Have you ever wondered how hard/easy it is to become USDA Certified Organic?

Follow this link...

https://www.texasagriculture.gov/RegulatoryPrograms/Organics/OrganicsForms.aspx

Then you will see this on the page...

If your farm is not already USDA Certified, then you must fill out the following forms:

  • Form ROR 600, Organic Certification Application
  • Form ROR 607, Producer Organic System Plan
  • Form ROR 622, Organic Seed and Planting Stock Disclosure
  • Form ROR 621, Previous Land Manager Affidavit
  • If you want to sell products internationally, Form ROR 610

    If you’re not currently Certified Organic, then it will cost around $400-$1500 the application fees, depending on how many inputs you’re going to use on your field. Inputs include fertilizer, soil amendments, seed/root inoculant, pest control, anything you add to the soil.

    Then, the major expenses after the application fee are the labor costs for having a crew of people come manually kill the weeds in your field.

Example of weed control costs:

200 Acres = $5,000 every other month

10 people($10/hr) for 10hrs/day for 5 days

You have to renew Organic certification every year, but after the first year, you just fill out the renewal form, it’s a lot shorter than the initial application plan. You then get certified, after your field audit from the USDA inspector and you pass.

It is a bunch of forms to fill out, and it could take days if you have a lot of land. Once, you submit forms/fees by mail, the Organics  department at TDA will process your paperwork, correct any discrepancies they find, and then send the paperwork back.  

Then, once you’re growing, the USDA will ask your availability on coming to do a field audit.  The inspectors will come out, go over paperwork, review product labels, seed/ fertilizer receipts, make sure everything is by the book, and then inspect your field for signs of poor management or contamination.

If you pass, you get certified organic!

If anyone has any questions about the organic certification process 

contact: Adrian Garcia at agarcia7675@live.com .


Requirements of State organic programs.

(a) A State may establish a State organic program for production and handling operations within the State which produce and handle organic agricultural products. 

(b) A State organic program must meet the requirements for organic programs specified in the Act. 

(c) A State organic program may contain more restrictive requirements because of environmental conditions or the necessity of specific production or handling practices particular to the State or region of the United States. 

(d) A State organic program must assume enforcement obligations in the State for the requirements of this part and any more restrictive requirements approved by the Secretary. 

(e) A State organic program and any amendments to such program must be approved by the Secretary prior to being implemented by the State. 


Submission and determination of proposed State organic programs and amendments to approved State organic programs.

(a) A State organic program's governing State official must submit to the Secretary a proposed State organic program and any proposed amendments to such approved program. 

(1) Such submission must contain supporting materials that include statutory authorities, program description, documentation of the environmental conditions or specific production and handling practices particular to the State which necessitate more restrictive requirements than the requirements of this part, and other information as may be required by the Secretary. 

(2) Submission of a request for amendment of an approved State organic program must contain supporting materials that include an explanation and documentation of the environmental conditions or specific production and handling practices particular to the State or region, which necessitates the proposed amendment. Supporting material also must explain how the proposed amendment furthers and is consistent with the purposes of the Act and the regulations of this part. 

(b) Within 6 months of receipt of submission, the Secretary will: Notify the State organic program's governing State official of approval or disapproval of the proposed program or amendment of an approved program and, if disapproved, the reasons for the disapproval. 

(c) After receipt of a notice of disapproval, the State organic program's governing State official may submit a revised State organic program or amendment of such a program at any time. 


Review of approved State organic programs.

The Secretary will review a State organic program not less than once during each 5-year period following the date of the initial program approval. The Secretary will notify the State organic program's governing State official of approval or disapproval of the program within 6 months after initiation of the review. 


Fees and other charges for accreditation.

Fees and other charges equal as nearly as may be to the cost of the accreditation services rendered under the regulations, including initial accreditation, review of annual reports, and renewal of accreditation, shall be assessed and collected from applicants for initial accreditation and accredited certifying agents submitting annual reports or seeking renewal of accreditation in accordance with the following provisions: 

(a) Fees-for-service. (1) Except as otherwise provided in this section, fees-for-service shall be based on the time required to render the service provided calculated to the nearest 15-minute period, including the review of applications and accompanying documents and information, evaluator travel, the conduct of on-site evaluations, review of annual reports and updated documents and information, and the time required to prepare reports and any other documents in connection with the performance of service. The hourly rate shall be the same as that charged by the Agricultural Marketing Service, through its Quality Systems Certification Program, to certification bodies requesting conformity assessment to the International Organization for Standardization “General Requirements for Bodies Operating Product Certification Systems” (ISO Guide 65). 

(2) Applicants for initial accreditation and accredited certifying agents submitting annual reports or seeking renewal of accreditation during the first 18 months following the effective date of subpart F of this part shall receive service without incurring an hourly charge for service. 

(3) Applicants for initial accreditation and renewal of accreditation must pay at the time of application, effective 18 months following February 20, 2001, a nonrefundable fee of $500.00 which shall be applied to the applicant's fees-for-service account. 

(b) Travel charges. When service is requested at a place so distant from the evaluator's headquarters that a total of one-half hour or more is required for the evaluator(s) to travel to such place and back to the headquarters or at a place of prior assignment on circuitous routing requiring a total of one-half hour or more to travel to the next place of assignment on the circuitous routing, the charge for such service shall include a mileage charge administratively determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and travel tolls, if applicable, or such travel prorated among all the applicants and certifying agents furnished the service involved on an equitable basis or, when the travel is made by public transportation (including hired vehicles), a fee equal to the actual cost thereof. Travel charges shall become effective for all applicants for initial accreditation and accredited certifying agents on February 20, 2001. The applicant or certifying agent will not be charged a new mileage rate without notification before the service is rendered. 

(c) Per diem charges. When service is requested at a place away from the evaluator's headquarters, the fee for such service shall include a per diem charge if the employee(s) performing the service is paid per diem in accordance with existing travel regulations. Per diem charges to applicants and certifying agents will cover the same period of time for which the evaluator(s) receives per diem reimbursement. The per diem rate will be administratively determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Per diem charges shall become effective for all applicants for initial accreditation and accredited certifying agents on February 20, 2001. The applicant or certifying agent will not be charged a new per diem rate without notification before the service is rendered. 

(d) Other costs. When costs, other than costs specified in paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) of this section, are associated with providing the services, the applicant or certifying agent will be charged for these costs. Such costs include but are not limited to equipment rental, photocopying, delivery, facsimile, telephone, or translation charges incurred in association with accreditation services. The amount of the costs charged will be determined administratively by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Such costs shall become effective for all applicants for initial accreditation and accredited certifying agents on February 20, 2001. 


Payment of fees and other charges.

(a) Applicants for initial accreditation and renewal of accreditation must remit the nonrefundable fee, pursuant to §205.640(a)(3), along with their application. Remittance must be made payable to the USDA, AMS Livestock Program and mailed to: USDA, AMS Livestock, Poultry and Seed Program, QAD, P.O. Box 790304 St. Louis, MO 63179-0304 or such other address as required by the Program Manager.

(b) Payments for fees and other charges not covered under paragraph (a) of this section must be: 

(1) Received by the due date shown on the bill for collection; 

(2) Made payable to the Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA; and 

(3) Mailed to the address provided on the bill for collection. 

(c) The Administrator shall assess interest, penalties, and administrative costs on debts not paid by the due date shown on a bill for collection and collect delinquent debts or refer such debts to the Department of Justice for litigation. 


Fees and other charges for certification.

Fees charged by a certifying agent must be reasonable, and a certifying agent shall charge applicants for certification and certified production and handling operations only those fees and charges that it has filed with the Administrator. The certifying agent shall provide each applicant with an estimate of the total cost of certification and an estimate of the annual cost of updating the certification. The certifying agent may require applicants for certification to pay at the time of application a nonrefundable fee which shall be applied to the applicant's fees-for-service account. The certifying agent may set the nonrefundable portion of certification fees; however, the nonrefundable portion of certification fees must be explained in the fee schedule submitted to the Administrator. The fee schedule must explain what fee amounts are nonrefundable and at what stage during the certification process fees become nonrefundable. The certifying agent shall provide all persons inquiring about the application process with a copy of its fee schedule. 


General.

(a) The National Organic Program's Program Manager, on behalf of the Secretary, may inspect and review certified production and handling operations and accredited certifying agents for compliance with the Act or regulations in this part. 

(b) The Program Manager may initiate suspension or revocation proceedings against a certified operation: 

(1) When the Program Manager has reason to believe that a certified operation has violated or is not in compliance with the Act or regulations in this part; or 

(2) When a certifying agent or a State organic program's governing State official fails to take appropriate action to enforce the Act or regulations in this part. 

(c) The Program Manager may initiate suspension or revocation of a certifying agent's accreditation if the certifying agent fails to meet, conduct, or maintain accreditation requirements pursuant to the Act or this part. 

(d) Each notification of noncompliance, rejection of mediation, noncompliance resolution, proposed suspension or revocation, and suspension or revocation issued pursuant to §205.662, §205.663, and §205.665 and each response to such notification must be sent to the recipient's place of business via a delivery service which provides dated return receipts. 


Investigation of certified operations.

(a) A certifying agent may investigate complaints of noncompliance with the Act or regulations of this part concerning production and handling operations certified as organic by the certifying agent. A certifying agent must notify the Program Manager of all compliance proceedings and actions taken pursuant to this part. 

(b) A State organic program's governing State official may investigate complaints of noncompliance with the Act or regulations in this part concerning organic production or handling operations operating in the State. 


Noncompliance procedure for certified operations.

(a) Notification. When an inspection, review, or investigation of a certified operation by a certifying agent or a State organic program's governing State official reveals any noncompliance with the Act or regulations in this part, a written notification of noncompliance shall be sent to the certified operation. Such notification shall provide: 

(1) A description of each noncompliance; 

(2) The facts upon which the notification of noncompliance is based; and 

(3) The date by which the certified operation must rebut or correct each noncompliance and submit supporting documentation of each such correction when correction is possible. 

(b) Resolution. When a certified operation demonstrates that each noncompliance has been resolved, the certifying agent or the State organic program's governing State official, as applicable, shall send the certified operation a written notification of noncompliance resolution. 

(c) Proposed suspension or revocation. When rebuttal is unsuccessful or correction of the noncompliance is not completed within the prescribed time period, the certifying agent or State organic program's governing State official shall send the certified operation a written notification of proposed suspension or revocation of certification of the entire operation or a portion of the operation, as applicable to the noncompliance. When correction of a noncompliance is not possible, the notification of noncompliance and the proposed suspension or revocation of certification may be combined in one notification. The notification of proposed suspension or revocation of certification shall state: 

(1) The reasons for the proposed suspension or revocation; 

(2) The proposed effective date of such suspension or revocation; 

(3) The impact of a suspension or revocation on future eligibility for certification; and 

(4) The right to request mediation pursuant to §205.663 or to file an appeal pursuant to §205.681. 

(d) Willful violations. Notwithstanding paragraph (a) of this section, if a certifying agent or State organic program's governing State official has reason to believe that a certified operation has willfully violated the Act or regulations in this part, the certifying agent or State organic program's governing State official shall send the certified operation a notification of proposed suspension or revocation of certification of the entire operation or a portion of the operation, as applicable to the noncompliance. 

(e) Suspension or revocation. (1) If the certified operation fails to correct the noncompliance, to resolve the issue through rebuttal or mediation, or to file an appeal of the proposed suspension or revocation of certification, the certifying agent or State organic program's governing State official shall send the certified operation a written notification of suspension or revocation. 

(2) A certifying agent or State organic program's governing State official must not send a notification of suspension or revocation to a certified operation that has requested mediation pursuant to §205.663 or filed an appeal pursuant to §205.681, while final resolution of either is pending. 

(f) Eligibility. (1) A certified operation whose certification has been suspended under this section may at any time, unless otherwise stated in the notification of suspension, submit a request to the Secretary for reinstatement of its certification. The request must be accompanied by evidence demonstrating correction of each noncompliance and corrective actions taken to comply with and remain in compliance with the Act and the regulations in this part. 

(2) A certified operation or a person responsibly connected with an operation whose certification has been revoked will be ineligible to receive certification for a period of 5 years following the date of such revocation, Except, That, the Secretary may, when in the best interest of the certification program, reduce or eliminate the period of ineligibility. 

(g) Violations of Act. In addition to suspension or revocation, any certified operation that: 

(1) Knowingly sells or labels a product as organic, except in accordance with the Act, shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than the amount specified in §3.91(b)(1) of this title per violation.

(2) Makes a false statement under the Act to the Secretary, a State organic program's governing State official, or a certifying agent shall be subject to the provisions of section 1001 of title 18, United States Code. 


Mediation.

Any dispute with respect to denial of certification or proposed suspension or revocation of certification under this part may be mediated at the request of the applicant for certification or certified operation and with acceptance by the certifying agent. Mediation shall be requested in writing to the applicable certifying agent. If the certifying agent rejects the request for mediation, the certifying agent shall provide written notification to the applicant for certification or certified operation. The written notification shall advise the applicant for certification or certified operation of the right to request an appeal, pursuant to §205.681, within 30 days of the date of the written notification of rejection of the request for mediation. If mediation is accepted by the certifying agent, such mediation shall be conducted by a qualified mediator mutually agreed upon by the parties to the mediation. If a State organic program is in effect, the mediation procedures established in the State organic program, as approved by the Secretary, will be followed. The parties to the mediation shall have no more than 30 days to reach an agreement following a mediation session. If mediation is unsuccessful, the applicant for certification or certified operation shall have 30 days from termination of mediation to appeal the certifying agent's decision pursuant to §205.681. Any agreement reached during or as a result of the mediation process shall be in compliance with the Act and the regulations in this part. The Secretary may review any mediated agreement for conformity to the Act and the regulations in this part and may reject any agreement or provision not in conformance with the Act or the regulations in this part. 


Noncompliance procedure for certifying agents.

(a) Notification. When an inspection, review, or investigation of an accredited certifying agent by the Program Manager reveals any noncompliance with the Act or regulations in this part, a written notification of noncompliance shall be sent to the certifying agent. Such notification shall provide: 

(1) A description of each noncompliance; 

(2) The facts upon which the notification of noncompliance is based; and 

(3) The date by which the certifying agent must rebut or correct each noncompliance and submit supporting documentation of each correction when correction is possible. 

(b) Resolution. When the certifying agent demonstrates that each noncompliance has been resolved, the Program Manager shall send the certifying agent a written notification of noncompliance resolution. 

(c) Proposed suspension or revocation. When rebuttal is unsuccessful or correction of the noncompliance is not completed within the prescribed time period, the Program Manager shall send a written notification of proposed suspension or revocation of accreditation to the certifying agent. The notification of proposed suspension or revocation shall state whether the certifying agent's accreditation or specified areas of accreditation are to be suspended or revoked. When correction of a noncompliance is not possible, the notification of noncompliance and the proposed suspension or revocation may be combined in one notification. The notification of proposed suspension or revocation of accreditation shall state: 

(1) The reasons for the proposed suspension or revocation; 

(2) The proposed effective date of the suspension or revocation; 

(3) The impact of a suspension or revocation on future eligibility for accreditation; and 

(4) The right to file an appeal pursuant to §205.681. 

(d) Willful violations. Notwithstanding paragraph (a) of this section, if the Program Manager has reason to believe that a certifying agent has willfully violated the Act or regulations in this part, the Program Manager shall send a written notification of proposed suspension or revocation of accreditation to the certifying agent. 

(e) Suspension or revocation. When the accredited certifying agent fails to file an appeal of the proposed suspension or revocation of accreditation, the Program Manager shall send a written notice of suspension or revocation of accreditation to the certifying agent. 

(f) Cessation of certification activities. A certifying agent whose accreditation is suspended or revoked must: 

(1) Cease all certification activities in each area of accreditation and in each State for which its accreditation is suspended or revoked. 

(2) Transfer to the Secretary and make available to any applicable State organic program's governing State official all records concerning its certification activities that were suspended or revoked. 

(g) Eligibility. (1) A certifying agent whose accreditation is suspended by the Secretary under this section may at any time, unless otherwise stated in the notification of suspension, submit a request to the Secretary for reinstatement of its accreditation. The request must be accompanied by evidence demonstrating correction of each noncompliance and corrective actions taken to comply with and remain in compliance with the Act and the regulations in this part. 

(2) A certifying agent whose accreditation is revoked by the Secretary shall be ineligible to be accredited as a certifying agent under the Act and the regulations in this part for a period of not less than 3 years following the date of such revocation. 


Noncompliance procedures under State organic programs.

(a) A State organic program's governing State official must promptly notify the Secretary of commencement of any noncompliance proceeding against a certified operation and forward to the Secretary a copy of each notice issued. 

(b) A noncompliance proceeding, brought by a State organic program's governing State official against a certified operation, shall be appealable pursuant to the appeal procedures of the State organic program. There shall be no subsequent rights of appeal to the Secretary. Final decisions of a State may be appealed to the United States District Court for the district in which such certified operation is located. 

(c) A State organic program's governing State official may review and investigate complaints of noncompliance with the Act or regulations concerning accreditation of certifying agents operating in the State. When such review or investigation reveals any noncompliance, the State organic program's governing State official shall send a written report of noncompliance to the Program Manager. The report shall provide a description of each noncompliance and the facts upon which the noncompliance is based. 


Inspection and testing of agricultural products to be sold or labeled as “100 percent organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic (specified ingredients or food groups).”

(a) All agricultural products that are to be sold, labeled, or represented as “100 percent organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))” must be made accessible by certified organic production or handling operations for examination by the Administrator, the applicable State organic program's governing State official, or the certifying agent.

(b) The Administrator, applicable State organic program's governing State official, or the certifying agent may require preharvest or postharvest testing of any agricultural input used or agricultural product to be sold, labeled, or represented as “100 percent organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))” when there is reason to believe that the agricultural input or product has come into contact with a prohibited substance or has been produced using excluded methods. Samples may include the collection and testing of soil; water; waste; seeds; plant tissue; and plant, animal, and processed products samples. Such tests must be conducted by the applicable State organic program's governing State official or the certifying agent at the official's or certifying agent's own expense.

(c) A certifying agent must conduct periodic residue testing of agricultural products to be sold, labeled, or represented as “100 percent organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s)).” Samples may include the collection and testing of soil; water; waste; seeds; plant tissue; and plant, animal, and processed products samples. Such tests must be conducted by the certifying agent at the certifying agent's own expense.

(d) A certifying agent must, on an annual basis, sample and test from a minimum of five percent of the operations it certifies, rounded to the nearest whole number. A certifying agent that certifies fewer than thirty operations on an annual basis must sample and test from at least one operation annually. Tests conducted under paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section will apply to the minimum percentage of operations.

(e) Sample collection pursuant to paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section must be performed by an inspector representing the Administrator, applicable State organic program's governing State official, or certifying agent. Sample integrity must be maintained throughout the chain of custody, and residue testing must be performed in an accredited laboratory. Chemical analysis must be made in accordance with the methods described in the most current edition of the Official Methods of Analysis of the AOAC International or other current applicable validated methodology for determining the presence of contaminants in agricultural products.

(f) Results of all analyses and tests performed under this section will be available for public access, unless the testing is part of an ongoing compliance investigation.

(g) If test results indicate a specific agricultural product contains pesticide residues or environmental contaminants that exceed the Food and Drug Administration's or the Environmental Protection Agency's regulatory tolerances, the certifying agent must promptly report such data to the Federal health agency whose regulatory tolerance or action level has been exceeded. Test results that exceed federal regulatory tolerances must also be reported to the appropriate State health agency or foreign equivalent.


Exclusion from organic sale.

When residue testing detects prohibited substances at levels that are greater than 5 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency's tolerance for the specific residue detected or unavoidable residual environmental contamination, the agricultural product must not be sold, labeled, or represented as organically produced. The Administrator, the applicable State organic program's governing State official, or the certifying agent may conduct an investigation of the certified operation to determine the cause of the prohibited substance. 


Emergency pest or disease treatment.

When a prohibited substance is applied to a certified operation due to a Federal or State emergency pest or disease treatment program and the certified operation otherwise meets the requirements of this part, the certification status of the operation shall not be affected as a result of the application of the prohibited substance: Provided, That: 

(a) Any harvested crop or plant part to be harvested that has contact with a prohibited substance applied as the result of a Federal or State emergency pest or disease treatment program cannot be sold, labeled, or represented as organically produced; and 

(b) Any livestock that are treated with a prohibited substance applied as the result of a Federal or State emergency pest or disease treatment program or product derived from such treated livestock cannot be sold, labeled, or represented as organically produced: Except, That: 

(1) Milk or milk products may be sold, labeled, or represented as organically produced beginning 12 months following the last date that the dairy animal was treated with the prohibited substance; and 

(2) The offspring of gestating mammalian breeder stock treated with a prohibited substance may be considered organic: Provided, That, the breeder stock was not in the last third of gestation on the date that the breeder stock was treated with the prohibited substance. 


These resouces are found at ecfr.gov