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What is an organic system plan?

Everyone seeking organic certification–whether they are applying for initial certification or renewing their certification for the seventeenth year–must submit an Organic System Plan (OSP). The OSP is the foundation of the organic certification application, and it provides certification agents and reviewers with a thorough understanding of how an operation complies with organic regulations.

Organic system plans vary based on an operations size, scope, and location. However, all OSPs include:

    • Resource management practices
    • List of inputs
    • Maps

Specific operational scopes have additional documentation requirements which we’ll cover later in this post. But first, it’s important to understand that an organic system plan isn’t a bureaucratic hoop operators jump through on the way to certification.  

What is the purpose of an OSP?

The primary purpose of an organic system plan is to facilitate communication between organic operators, certifying agents, and reviewers.

But for operators, the OSP serves several additional purposes.

An OSP encourages operators to anticipate the future needs of their operation through a methodical, evidence-based approach. This approach allows operators to:

    • anticipate future operational needs
    • make informed short- and long-term decisions
    • effectively utilize human, physical, and natural resources
    • more accurately budget for future expenses and expected income

The benefits of an OSP don’t end after its initial creation. That’s because an organic system plan is a living document. What does that mean? Put simply, an organic system plan is meant to evolve as an operation evolves. The evolution of the OSP allows operators to continue effectively communicating with certifying agencies and inspectors while also continuing to reap the benefits derived from the original plan.

What is included in an OSP?

What you include in your organic system plan will depend on the scope of your operation. Some operations have only one scope, but it is possible for an operation to have up to four scopes. Organic regulations currently have scopes for:

    • Crops
    • Livestock
    • Processing
    • Wild Crops

Organic System Plan Requirements

All organic system plans must include a description of the products produced, inputs and materials used in the production process, records tracking harvest/production quantities and sales, and maps of fields/facilities. Each scope has additional documentation requirements, outlined below.


Crop operations include cultivated crops that might include, but are not limited to:

    • Corn
    • Soybeans
    • Oranges
    • Alfalfa
    • Potatoes
Crop Organic System Plan Requirements

Organic system plans for crops must include detailed information about:

    • Crops planted + seed source
    • Harvests
    • Sales
    • Records
    • Soil-building practices
    • Pest-management
    • Bio-diversity plan


Livestock operations include animals that are raised following organic practices. They include, but are not limited to:

    • Dairy farms
    • Poultry
    • Pigs
Livestock Organic System Plan Requirements

Organic system plans for livestock operations must include detailed information about:

    • Animals raised on operation
    • Sales
    • Records
    • Health care
    • Pasture
    • Non-pasture feed sources


Processing operations include any activity that alters the form of an organic product. Processing operations and activities include, but are not limited to:

    • Packaging
    • Transporting
    • Butchers
    • Bakers
Processing Organic System Plan Requirements

Organic system plans for processing operations must include detailed information about:

    • Sales
    • Records
    • Clean-down procedures
    • Transportation records
    • Ingredient sourcing/list


Wild crop operations include any operation where a crop is collected that has not been intentionally cultivated using irrigation, inputs, etc. Operations include, but are not limited to:

    • Seaweed
    • Mushrooms
    • Maple Syrup
    • Ginseng
    • Herbs
Wild Crop Organic System Plan Requirements

Organic system plans for wild crop operations must include detailed information about:

    • Types of wild crops harvested
    • List of rare, threatened, or endangered species in harvest area
    • Geographic area of harvest crops
    • Authorization of right to collection on any unowned land
    • Harvesting plan outlining how habitat and biodiversity will be preserved, and explanation of hiring and training of collectors

Before selecting an organic certification agency, you should ensure that the agency is able to offer certification for the scope(s) of your operation. Although most agencies can certify all scopes, some agencies specialize in specific areas.

Learn more about organic agriculture and the organic certification process.

  • Should you transition to Organic?: The decision to transition a conventional operation to organic is deeply personal. Organic certification requires resources, like time and money, and perseverance in the face of the challenges that you will inevitably encounter along the way. Is transitioning to organic the right step for your operation?
  • Organic Certification Process: All operators seeking initial organic certification must complete a similar six step process regardless of which certification agency they partner with. The certification process can feel intimidating at first, but knowing what to expect can help alleviate much of the stress you might initially feel.
  • Healthy Soil: Cultivating healthy soil requires establishing ecological balance and increasing biological diversity. But how can you establish healthy soil on your farm?
Every operator’s path to organic certification is different. Learn more about about the different paths to organic certification in our “Operator Spotlight” series.
  • Bessette Creek Farm: Through traditional organic farming methods like the use of cover crops and crop rotation, Bessette Creek Farm improved the quality of their soil, reduced their water usage, and now better retains moisture in their soil even during the driest months of the year.
  • Allan Kettle: In the mid-1990s, Allan Kettle decided to organically certify his Alberta farm. For Allan, the decision to pursue organic certification was easy. Allan’s father, who operated the farm before him, had never used synthetic fertilizers or sprays. Allan continued those practices when he took over the farm.
  • Ryan Albinger and Parallel Production: He initially transitioned his entire operation to organic. However, as Ryan Albinger’s farm grew, he decided to use parallel organic and conventional production methods. Albinger argues such an approach offers economic and social benefits.
  • Jack Geiger: The farm crisis of the 1980s forced Jack Geiger’s family to consider farming methods that required fewer and less expensive inputs. They naturally turned to organics. 

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Thank you for submitting your organic certification application! OCIA looks forward to working with you.

For applicants who are new or currently under suspension, please see the end of the page for some important notes.

An estimate for your 2023 certification and inspection fees was sent with the login information. Please promptly send payment to the address on the invoice. If you are a new applicant, OCIA will not review your file until payment is received.

If you are submitting hardcopies of any supporting documents, please mail them to the address on the invoice. Failure to submit required supporting documents may lead to delays in the review.

Once a complete file is received, OCIA will complete a pre-inspection review. During this process, OCIA will contact you if additional information is needed. Please respond to any communication from OCIA in a timely manner.

Please contact OCIA International if you have any questions.

New applicants: Please be reminded that as a new applicant, your operation currently cannot label or sell product as organic. If organic certification is granted, an organic certificate will be issued and product can then be sold as organic.

For farm operations, the inspector must see your crop in the field, so check-strips must be left in all fields requested for certification if any harvest occurs prior to inspection. For hay fields, any hay harvested prior to inspection cannot be certified as organic.

For suspended operations: Please be aware that no product can be sold as “organic” while suspended and previous product is no longer “organic.” For farm operations, any crops currently in storage are no longer organic and must be sold conventionally. Only crops harvested after reinstatement, if it is granted, may be sold as “organic.” Any crops harvested from fields prior to reinstatement must be sold conventionally.

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¡Gracias por enviar su solicitud de certificación orgánica! OCIA espera trabajar con usted. Para los solicitantes que son nuevos o están actualmente suspendidos, consulte el final de la página para conocer información importante.

Se le envió un estimado de los honorarios de certificación e inspección 2023 con la información de inicio de sesión. Envíe puntualmente el pago a la dirección que figura en la factura. Si usted es un nuevo solicitante, OCIA no revisará su expediente hasta que se reciba el pago.

Si envía copias impresas de cualquier documento de respaldo, envíelas por correo a la dirección que figura en la factura. Se podrá producir demoras en la revisión si no se envían los documentos de respaldo necesarios,.

Una vez que se recibe un expediente completo, OCIA llevará a cabo una revisión de preinspección. Durante este proceso, OCIA se comunicará con usted si necesita información adicional. Responda a cualquier comunicación de OCIA de manera oportuna.

Póngase en contacto con OCIA International si tiene alguna pregunta.

Para los solicitantes nuevos: recuerde que, como solicitante nuevo, su operación actualmente no puede etiquetar o vender productos como orgánicos. Si se otorga la certificación orgánica, se emitirá un certificado orgánico y el producto se podrá vender como orgánico.

Para las operaciones agrícolas, el inspector debe ver su cultivo en el campo, por lo que si se produce alguna cosecha antes de la inspección, se deben dejar franjas o surcos de verificación en todos los campos solicitados para la certificación. Para los campos de heno, cualquier heno cosechado antes de la inspección no puede certificarse como orgánico.

Para operaciones suspendidas: tenga en cuenta que ningún producto puede venderse como "orgánico" mientras está suspendido y que el producto anterior ya no es "orgánico". Para las operaciones agrícolas, cualquier cultivo actualmente almacenado ya no es orgánico y debe venderse de manera convencional. Solo los cultivos cosechados después del restablecimiento, si se otorga, pueden venderse como "orgánicos". Cualquier cultivo cosechado de los campos antes de la reinstalación debe venderse de manera convencional ".

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