Certification steps

Understanding the process


Step 1: Organic System Plan

Organic certification starts with the development of a detailed Organic System Plan (OSP). The plan is the heart of your application and a guiding document for the certification process.

Your OSP provides all of the information necessary to demonstrate compliance with regulations for certified products and services. Each OSP is unique and personalized by operation type, location, and more. However, all plans must address, in detail, each aspect of the production system — farming or handling — such as tillage, crop rotations, harvest, storage, transportation and more. Plans also demonstrate documentation and monitoring practices, recordkeeping systems, use of approved materials, contamination prevention, and management practices such as pest and disease control. The OSP serves as a point of reference for accountability and compliance.

In addition to the OSP — the core of your application — you must include a signed copy of the Oregon Tilth Contract and Trademark Use Agreement as well as the applicable certification fees with your application submission.

Step 2: Initial review

OTCO will review your OSP to ensure all application materials are completed and clear. We will follow up with any questions about the capacity for compliance and provide additional support regarding any missing documentation.

Step 3: Inspection

A trained organic inspector will conduct an on-site inspection of your operation.

Your inspector will perform a detailed, in-depth inspection to ensure each element of your OSP is accurate, complete, and verifiable. During the comprehensive review, the inspector will evaluate different aspects of the operation depending on scope.

For example, a crops inspection will include examination of, but is not limited to:

  • All field locations
  • Soil conditions
  • Crop health
  • Weed management
  • Pests management
  • Irrigation systems
  • Storage areas
  • Equipment

A livestock inspection will include examination of, but is not limited to:

  • Feed production
  • Purchase records
  • Feed rations
  • Animal living conditions
  • Preventative health practices
  • Health records
  • Animal health and condition

A handling operation inspection will include examination of, but is not limited to:

  • Receiving
  • Processing
  • Storage areas
  • Contamination prevention practices

The inspector will report findings for additional review by a certification officer. The length of an inspection visit depends on the complexity and scale of your operation.

Step 4: Final review

OTCO staff review the finalized application (OSP) and the inspection report to evaluate compliance with the organic standards. From observation of practices on-site to assessing risks — contamination, commingling, control points — findings will help determine a final certification decision, which may note specific items that require clarification or correction prior to completing certification.

Step 5: Resolution

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, the operation is approved for organic certification.

Step 6: Certification

Congratulations! Once certification is granted, OTCO 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. Your organic certification remains in effect until surrendered, suspended, or revoked and must be kept updated annually.

Step 7: Fee reimbursement

The National Organic Certification Cost Share Program helps certified operators — farmers and processors — 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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