Organic Certification - FAQs
1. How do I apply to register as an organic producer, handler, or retailer?
The Agricultural Commissioner (CAC) enforces regulations adopted under the National Organic Program (NOP) and registers businesses (producers, handlers, and retailers) prior to sales of organic products with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). Organic handlers and retailers must submit an application to the CAC and pay a flat registration fee annually to CDFA. Growers also submit an organic registration application to the CAC for production which includes a required check of pesticide use records. The fee is based on the projected annual gross sales and is required to be submitted with the application. It must be check or money order made out to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
2. When must a producer be certified organic?
After Organic producers have registered they may sell organic products worth up to $5000 without being certified organic. But before a producer can proceed with sales greater than $5000, annually, he must be certified organic.
The certification of producers and handlers is conducted by USDA/CDFA accredited, third party certifiers. Producers and handlers must submit an Organic Systems Plan (OSP) to the certifier for approval. The certifier conducts inspections of growing grounds, facilities, and the required operations records to ascertain that the producer is complying with all of the procedures and practices required by the NOP and then certifies the grower’s OSP. Growers pay the certifier directly and each certifier has a different fee requirement. The Agricultural Commissioner can supply you with a list of third party certifiers.
3. What records does the Agricultural Commissioner keep that can help verify that I am eligible to be a certified organic producer?
The Agricultural Commissioner keeps records of pesticide use reports that producers are required to submit on commercial agricultural products. An Agricultural Inspector will search the pesticide use records to ensure that no prohibited pesticide has been reported on the site where organic production will take place in the past three years.
4. How do I find a third party certifier?
The agricultural commissioner can provide you with a list of third party certifiers to choose from.
5. What am I required to do as a certified organic producer?
In order to be certified as organic a grower must not have used any agricultural chemical that is prohibited by the National Organic Program for the past three years. The operation must also be certified by a USDA approved third party organization if its gross sales are $5000 or more annually. Certification will not be completed by the certifier unless the producer has registered through the CAC. Once the grower is certified he can market his commodities as “certified organic” and use the USDA organic seal.
6. What can happen to me if I operate in violation of the regulations for certified organic production?
Complaints received by CDFA or the Agricultural Commissioner regarding organic produce production, handling or labeling practices are investigated by Agricultural Inspectors. If violations of the law are found our office may recommend that the state suspends or revokes the grower’s organic registration and certification. The grower may also be required to pay a fine by the CDFA.