In the United States, the USDA NOP (National Organic Program) is responsible for overseeing the regulations that defined organic materials, which are covered in 7CFR205. Site inspections and issuance of USDA Organic certifications for farms and handling/processing facilities are issued by accredited agents of the USDA (referred to as Accredited Certifying Agents).
Any facility or farm or processor/handler that grosses more than $5,000 annually in organic sales must be certified to be entitled to use the USDA organic seal.
The general process for organic certification involves the following steps.
- The certification process begins by the entity (farm or handler) to submit an application to the USDA accredited agent, which includes a detailed description of the operation, a history of substances used on the land (for farms), a list of organic products grown, raised or processed, a written Organic Systems Plan (ORP-Change to OSP) outlining the practices and substances intended for use during future production, and in the case of handlers an Organic Handling Plan (OHP).
- Certifying agents review the OSP or OHP.
- Site visit and inspection of the site where the OSP or OHP are compared to the submitted plan. In the case of farms this will include sampling of the soil or animal tissues, review of purchase records, as well as water system, storage areas, pest and weed management. In processing and handling operations, inspections include review o the purchasing records, revieing, processing and storage areas of organic ingredients, as well as review of potential cross contamination points, as well as trace back and mass balance.
- Correction of identified issues.
Approval to use USDA certified label.