Understanding certification

Do I need certification as a brand owner?

To protect organic integrity, most entities in the organic supply chain require organic certification. There are limited exemptions outlined in §205.101 that do not require organic certification. Under exemption (f), a brand owner may be exempt if they meet the following requirements:

(f) An operation that only buys, sells, receives, stores, and/or prepares for shipment, but does not otherwise handle, organic agricultural products already labeled for retail sale that:

(1) Are enclosed in sealed, tamper-evident packages or containers that are labeled for retail sale prior to being received or acquired by the operation; and

(2) Remain in the same sealed, tamper-evident packages or containers that are labeled for retail sale and are not otherwise handled while in the control of the operation.

If you contract someone else to produce organic products for you and only sell the finished packaged and labeled product, you — a brand owner — do not require certification. Your co-packer or custom manufacturer is required to be certified.

Can I sell certified organic products without certification?

As a brand owner, your co-packer — e.g., the operation producing, packaging, and labeling the products — is able to list your products on their certificate as a certified organic operation. You will be permitted to sell listed products in accordance with the 205.101 (f) exemption.

Do I need certification as a broker or trader?

As an operation that sells or facilities the sale of organic goods, organic certification is required effective 3/19/2024 with the implementation of NOP’s Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) regulatory update. All entities performing handling activities based on the definition of “handle” (below) require organic certification.

Handle. To sell, process, or package agricultural products, including but not limited to trading, facilitating sale or trade on behalf of a seller or oneself, importing to the United States, exporting for sale in the United States, combining, aggregating, culling, conditioning, treating, packing, containerizing, repackaging, labeling, storing, receiving, or loading.

Why would I choose to get certified?

Even if certification is not required, you may choose to get certified to:

  • Use one certifier on labels. Certification allows you to work with multiple facilities with different certifiers and label your product with your own single label and certifier designation (pending review and approval).
  • Have ownership of an organic certificate. In addition to direct engagement with the certifier — not going through your co-packer for approvals of labels, formulations, etc.— you will have direct oversight of your organic supply chain, not through a third-party co-packer. Your co-packer’s certifier will still need to review records and documentation, but it has been vetted and approved — the result is a more efficient process.

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