Certification steps

Understanding the process

OF CERTIFICATION

Step 1: Contact OTCO

We’re here to help make sure your application and certification process is clear and set-up for success. The first step of your certification journey starts with filling out our certification application request form.

Our team will set up an initial call to answer your questions about the application and conversion process. We’ll discuss your unique business needs and assess your eligibility for certification (non-organic farms and livestock operations need time to transition). Your educational services team will help walk you through the ins and outs of what critical information you’ll need up front. We’ll work together to get you prepared, and our goal is to create as smooth of an application process as possible from the start.

Once we get get a clear understanding of what you need, we’ll provide you with an application packet tailored to your business.

Step 2: Submit application

The core of your application is a detailed Organic System Plan (OSP).

Each OSP is different and personalized by your operation type, location, business model, sustainability goals and more. Our application provides the framework you need to create your OSP. The OSP is your written plan and supporting information that outlines your production practices. It provides all of the information necessary for OTCO to determine your compliance with the regulations for certified organic products and services.

Depending on your service, each OSP will require different information. Some examples include:

  • Crop farm: land use history, field maps, crop rotation plans, seed sources, material inputs, buffer areas, and more.
  • Livestock farm: animal living conditions, health care practices, feed rations, outdoor access, pasture management, and more.
  • Processor and/or handler: ingredient sources, sanitation, packaging, product labeling, transportation, and more.

We’re here for you. Whether over the phone, in a video chat, or through our 24/7 accessible Help Center, we’ll answer all of your questions along the way.

Step 3: Application review

After you submit your application, you will be paired with a dedicated client service team. A team member will review your application materials to ensure everything is complete and clear — we call this the “initial review.”

If needed, we will follow up with any questions about your capacity for compliance and to provide additional support regarding any missing documentation.

Step 4: Inspection

Following your initial review, we will schedule your inspection with a trained organic inspector who specializes in the needs of your operation (e.g. livestock, food processing).

Your inspector will verify that your OSP is accurate on paper and in practice. Through interviews, observation, and an audit of your records, the inspector will examine if you’re meeting the specifications of your OSP. The inspection requires good quality record keeping and easy traceability, enabling the inspector to efficiently (and correctly) match your on-the-ground practices with the certification requirements. The length of your inspection will depend upon the size and complexity of your operation.The inspector does not make a certification decision. Instead, the inspector will collect and verify your OSP’s specific information to produce an inspection report for additional review by your client service team.

Step 5: Final Review

After receiving the inspection report, a second member of your client service team will review your finalized application along with the inspection report to evaluate compliance with the organic standards. We may contact you for more information if we need additional clarification.

If necessary, OTCO staff will review proposed resolutions for any points of noncompliance determined by the inspection and OSP review process. Once these are cleared, your operation will be approved for organic certification.

Step 6: Certification

Congratulations! Once certification is granted, we will send you an organic certificate. The certificate is a legal document identifying your company, category of certification, and certified organic products and/or services. You can start marketing your product or services using the USDA and Oregon Tilth seals. Organic certification remains in effect until surrendered, suspended, or revoked and must be kept updated annually.

Our team will continue to provide support throughout the life of your certification. Your client service team will assist with updates to your business as you grow, adding more products or expanding the scope of your services. You’ll also get access to our client-dedicated education programs — webinars, tutorials, and expert guidance — and marketing support. We’ll keep you updated and involved in advocating for organic integrity at the highest levels.

Step 7: Fee reimbursement

The National Organic Certification Cost Share Program helps all certified operators afford the expense of organic certification by refunding up to 75 percent of certification costs per scope of operation, with a maximum of $750 per scope.

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