MARKETING AND DEVELOPMENT
Virginia Certified Organic Resource Guide. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires that anyone who produces, processes or handles organic agricultural products must be certified by a USDA-accredited certifier in order to sell, label or represent their products as organic. To become certified, an organic producer, processor or handler must develop, implement and maintain an organic system plan. Once an organic system plan is approved by a certification agency, an organic inspector is assigned to perform an on-site evaluation of the organic operation. Then, based on review of the organic system plan, inspection report and related documents, the certifier will determine whether the operation meets the requirements of organic certification. A certified operation must update its organic system plan and be inspected annually.
There is an exemption from USDA requirements for producers making less than $5,000 gross annual income from organic sales, but they must comply with organic production, handling, labeling and recordkeeping requirements, may not sell their product as ingredients for use in someone else’s certified organic product and must be available for spot inspections.
Organic certification is not a guarantee of the quality or purity of the product. Rather, it is evidence of the operation’s adherence to a prescribed system of agriculture and food production that involves building and enhancing the soil naturally, protecting the environment, treating animals humanely and avoiding synthetic substances.
So what specifically does this mean for the producer?
- Instead of chemical or synthetic fertilizers, organic producers use cover crops, green manures, animal manures and crop rotations to fertilize the soil, maximize biological activity and maintain long-term soil health.
- Instead of chemical pesticides and herbicides, organic producers use biological controls, crop rotations and allowable inputs to manage weeds, disease and insects.
- Instead of focusing on mono cropping, organic producers emphasize biodiversity of the whole agricultural system.
- Instead of total confinement practices, organic producers manage livestock by using rotational grazing with an emphasis on mixed forages and access to the outdoors suitable to the species, its stage of life and the environment.
- Instead of antibiotics, hormones and conventional medications, organic producers manage animals with an eye towards prevention of disease and use of natural treatments.
- Organic production focuses on renewable resources, soil and water conservation and improving the farm’s ecological balance.
What does this mean for processors/manufacturers who want to get their business certified organic?
- Processors who wish to be certified organic must use certified organic ingredients and also have the facility used to manufacture the product certified organic.
- The percentage of organic ingredients in their product will determine what kinds of organic labeling they may utilize.
- Processors must assure the certification agency that the manufacturing facility protects the organic integrity of the product as it moves throughout the facility.
Certified Organic Livestock Processors in Virginia
Certifiers Servicing Virginia
Product Lists Allowable For Use in Organic Production
Virginia Organic Certification Resource Guide (CLICK here to PRINT COPY)