Is organic certification an option for me?
Organic sales continue to grow in the U.S.
From 2000-2010 certified organic sales more than quadrupled in the U.S. to nearly $29 billion according to the Organic Trade Association. Organic fruit and vegetable sales accounted for nearly 40 percent of all organic sales and experienced 11.8 percent growth between 2009 and 2010. Organic dairy also increased 9 percent during the same timeframe to $3.9 billion in sales.
Third party certifications, “certified organic” in particular, may offer growers an opportunity to take advantage of this growing market. According to the USDA, the term “organic” is used for food or other agricultural products that have been produced according to the USDA organic regulations. In order to use the USDA Organic label, producers must abide by specific growing and handling standards. Certified organic operations must demonstrate that they are conserving natural resources and biodiversity, and only using approved substances as designated by the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.
More specific information on specific standards, third party certifiers, and compliance can be found on the USDA website. Alternatively, the USDA also offers a concise overview entitled: Is Organic An Option For Me?
In addition, many accredited third-party certifying organizations are more than willing to discuss the transition to organic production with prospective farmers. While Michigan is currently without a third party certifying organization, there are many certified organic growers in Michigan who are certified through organizations throughout the Great Lakes Region and beyond including: Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA), EcoCert ICO LLC, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Global Organic Alliance, Nature’s International Certification Services (NICS), Minnesota Crop Improvement Association (MCIA), and Organic National and International Certifiers (ONIC).
For an excellent synopsis on organic certification you can visit the MOSES organic certification guidebook. Michigan State University Extension hosts a ‘find and expert’ website where you can search for educators that focus on organic agriculture.