How can I find a certifier for organic value-added products?
Answer: Products that are labeled under the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) certify that the food or other agricultural product(s) have been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. The ATTRA publication Organic Certification explains the process for transitioning to organic and includes information on the transition period, choosing a certifier, as well as the costs associated with certifying a product or operation. There are currently 80 USDA-accredited agents authorized to certify operations to USDA organic standards; 48 of these are based in the United States. USDA provides an Organic Certifier Locator, which can help you find a certifier in your area. The tool can be searched by state/province and country. Access the tool and learn more about it here.Each of the certifying agents is authorized to issue an organic certificate to operations that comply with the USDA organic regulations. As noted in the above-mentioned ATTRA publication on organic certification, there are several criteria that you may wish to consider when choosing a certifier, including the following:Fee structureDistance to your farm or businessAccreditation to other standardsAdditional services, such as educational resources or member servicesIt is recommended to talk to a few certifiers to see which ones are a good fit for you and your operation. As you are starting to explore the possibility of transitioning to organics, now would be a good time to contact certifiers as they may have different recommendations and procedures for transitioning. While the cost of certifying may vary between different agencies, it is important to note that the USDA offers cost-share programs to assist current certified organic operations and transitioning operations in defraying the costs associated with organic certification.