You need USDA organic certification if:

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You’re an organic farmer and:

You’re looking to sell to more than just a few hundred local customers.

You want to start marketing your products and use the name recognition that being organically certified brings.

  • A lot of small producers get certified because it helps them introduce their farm and their products to people. Also it helps people know what they can expect.”

You want to sell to Whole Foods

  • Whole Foods will not sell a farmers produce as Organic without the Certification.  Some stores will sell both locally grown and Organic Produce, but Local grown does not necessarily mean that it is grown Organically, nor does organic mean that it was grown in California.  Both are available in most local areas.  Grocers have found that 40% of their shoppers will choose Organic and Locally grown produce over anything else.
  • You want to increase profits as well as lower expenses
  • You are eager to show that you are willing to go the extra mile for your customers


You have a Large Estate and:

  • You want to hire an Organic Farmer or Gardener to use extra food to help pay expenses as well as provide you and your family with Organic Healthy Food.
  • Lease out some of your estate property to an Organic farmer at a fair and equitable rate.


You Don’t Need an USDA Organic Certification:

If your farming operations gross income from organic sales totals $5,000 or less, farm and processing operations that grow and process organic agricultural products must be certified by USDA-accredited certifying agents.

What is Organic Certification Exactly?

Organic certification varies by type of business. It essentially means that the governments says that you do or don’t the following:

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  • no human sewage sludge fertilizer used in cultivation of plants or feed of animals[1]
  • avoidance of synthetic chemical inputs not on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (e.g. fertilizer, pesticides, antibiotics, food additives, etc.), genetically modified organisms, irradiation, and the use of biosolids;
  • use of farmland that has been free from prohibited synthetic chemicals for a number of years (often, three or more);
  • keeping detailed written production and sales records (audit trail);
  • maintaining strict physical separation of organic products from non-certified products;
  • undergoing periodic on-site inspections.

taken from Wikipedia


If you have been to store lately and looked at the labels for different organic products you may have been wondering: What’s the difference between “100 percent organic”, “organic”, and “made with organic ingredients”?

Answer: The labels are based on the percentage of organic ingredients in a product.

  • Products labeled as “100 percent organic” must contain (excluding water and salt) only organically produced ingredients and processing aids.
  • Products labeled “organic” must consist of at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt). Any remaining product ingredients must consist of non-agricultural substances approved on the National List including specific non-organically produced agricultural products that are not commercially available in organic form.
  • Product labeled “made with organic ingredients” contains at least 70% organic ingredients but cannot use the USDA Organic Seal which is something that you want.

So organically grown is for farmers who want to sell to Grocers who require the USDA Organic Certification as well as customers that need it as part of their purchasing decision.

The USDA Certification is a great tool if you use it properly, and plan for the changes that you need to make for it to become profitable for you! 

Educating yourself as well as your customers and your community is one of the best ways to help others also share in the increased health from growing organically.

The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and the National Organic Program (NOP) assure consumers that the organic agricultural products they purchase are produced, processed, and certified to consistent national organic standards.

The labeling requirements of the NOP apply to raw, fresh products and processed products that contain organic agricultural ingredients. Agricultural products that are sold, labeled, or represented as organic must be produced and processed in accordance with the NOP standards.


What are the challenges of getting organic certified?


There may seem to be a large expense to become certified, included among them are high costs, perceived difficulty of the process and profiting too little to justify it all.

D. Reeves of the Illinois Department of Agriculture adds this: a three-year transition period. During this time, farmers cannot market their produce as organic but must pay the costs associated with certification.

For farmers who would like to undergo the process but are worried about this, a cost-share program is available. The program reimburses farmers for 75 percent of the cost of certification fees up to $750 dollars annually.

“Small organic growers aren’t alone,” she said. “There is help for them.”

Getting Help

I teach a class on helping people get through all of the red tape of organic certification. Click here to find out more information.