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Organic Certification

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Organic Certification

Through the Organic Food Production Act of 1990, Congress established the National Organic Program which is administered by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. This law codified a national standard for the production, processing, and sale of organic products. This law defines the process and standards for USDA organic certification.

Certification Process

Organic certification is administered by the National Organic Program which is part of USDA-AMS. Organic certification requires a transition period of 3 years, meaning practices on the field must be organic compliant for 36 months before an operation can be certified organic.

The certification process has two main components, an application and an in-field inspection. To become certified organic, an operation will select a USDA-accredited certifying agent, and then submit an application and fee to them. The certifying agent does not have to be in the same state as the operation applying for certification. For more information on picking a certifier, you can reference our How to Pick a Certifier page.

The certifying agent will review the operation’s application and confirm practices are compliant. Next they will send an inspector to the farm for an onsite inspection. Once the certifying agent reviews the inspector’s report and confirms compliance with organic standards, the operation will receive an organic certificate.

To maintain organic certification an operation will need to be inspected annually. 

For more information on this process visit USDA-AMS’s guide on How to Get Certified or the Growing Small Farms Organic Certification Guide.

Organic Standards

Federal organic standards restrict a number of production practices and inputs including seeds, substances for fertility management, and methods of pest and weed control. These standards are summarized in the Organic Certification Federal Standards page. For a detailed guide of organic federal standards please see resources from USDA-AMS.

More detailed information on organic commodity crop production can be found in the NC State Organic Commodities Production Guide.

Quick Reference Resources

Written By

Hannah Moshay, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionHannah MoshayExtension Associate Call Hannah Email Hannah Crop & Soil Sciences
NC State Extension, NC State University
Page Last Updated: 2 days ago
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