30: Organic Certification
Organic production offers many advantages for small farmers including ecologically friendly production methods, strong consumer demand for organic products, and higher prices. Regardless of whether you use organic practices, if you have farm sales of more than $5,000/year you cannot legally sell your products as “organic,” or even use the word organic in your marketing, unless your farm has been officially certified as organic.
If you sell less than $5,000/year of product and would like to use the word “organic” in your marketing, you must adhere to organic practices even though there is no certification process required. To learn more about this, download the PDF:
Small Scale Organics
You can find the list of all certifying agencies by going to the USDA’s National Organic Program website:
USDA Organic Program
Click “List of Certifying Agents.” You can use any agency listed. The two located in New York are:
Natural Food Certifiers
119a S Main Street
Spring Valley, NY
Scope: crop, livestock, wild crop, handling
General Overview of Regulations
Organic regulations are complex and ever-changing, which is why it is important to work with your certifying agency on everything that you do to assure compliance.
In general, you cannot use synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, or petroleum-based fertilizers. To certify a field as organic it must not have had pesticides or petroleum fertilizers applied for the past three years. To certify animals as organic, there are various transition requirements depending upon the animal species: dairy, beef, pork, poultry, etc.
Great attention is paid to nurturing the soil by the use of composts, cover crops, rock minerals and natural fertilizers. Plant disease and pests are controlled through the use of crop rotations, resistant varieties, cultivation, and biological and botanical pest control. Animal health is maintained with wholesome food, adequate shelter, access to the outdoors, and preventive health plans.
Documentation of field maps, adjoining fields, complaints, crop inputs used, yields, sales, feeds purchased, medications used, and equipment-cleaning logs must be kept to maintain your certification.
Cost-Share for Organic Certification
NYS usually offers a program to reimburse you for up to 75% of organic certification fees, not exceeding $750. Check the latest status of this program here:
The National Center for Appropriate Technology has a really good database of videos and fact sheets to help farmers understand the requirements of organic production and record-keeping:
The USDA also offers a collection of helpful resources on organic education and transition assistance: