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Transitioning a conventional operation to organic can at times feel like a daunting task filled with insurmountable obstacles. For many farmers and livestock operators, costs associated with organic certification, profit loss due to mandatory transition periods, and gaps in the organic supply chain can make pursuing organic certification feel like a futile endeavor.

While it’s easy to become discouraged, many of the perceived challenges associated with organic certification can be overcome with planning, ingenuity, and perseverance.

Challenge #1: Organic certification is too expensive.

Perhaps the largest hurdle in the organic certification process is the cost of transitioning a conventional operation to organic. Many farmers and livestock operators worry that organic certification fees will be in the tens of thousands of dollars—prohibitively expensive for all but the highest-profit operations.

The reality is far different.

Most operations pay less than $2,000 in certification fees annually with average costs hovering around $1,200, and financial aid programs and grants can help defray certification costs.

For example, US-based operations are eligible for the USDA’s Cost-Share Program, which pays up to 75% or $750 of certification fees per operational scope. On average, this brings organic certification costs down to $450-$1,250.

Challenge #2: The mandatory three-year transition period leads to lower profits.

The mandatory three-year transition period for land previously operated conventionally can be daunting for many operators. During that period, operators must follow organic standards and regulations but cannot command premium prices typically demanded at market because they lack organic certification.

Many operators worry that their fields will experience a loss of productivity—and thus profitability—during this period.

Their fear is not unfounded. However, planning—and transitioning an operation gradually rather than all at once—can help prevent large loss of field productivity.

Organic agriculture, at it’s core, is about building the health and sustainability of soil. Operators with poor soil health face the greatest challenges when they are no longer able to use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Intentionally building soil health prior to beginning the organic transition helps ensure that land remains productive.

Challenge #3: Controlling pests and weeds without the use of synthetics feels impossible.

Weed and pest control for transitioning operators can be particularly difficult. Without the aid of synthetic pesticides and herbicides, pervasive weeds can easily take hold and unwanted guests can take up residence.

Synthetic inputs, however, are an invention of modern agriculture, and farmers ran productive operations long before their creation.

Successful organic operations use a variety of strategies to help control pests and weeds without the use of synthetics. Some of the most important pest and weed control strategies include:

    • Crop rotation
    • Cover cropping
    • Flame Weeding
    • Tillage
    • Grazing

Over time, the use of organic strategies will improve the overall health of the soil, making controlling pests and weeds more efficient each year.

Challenge #4: Gaps in the organic supply chain make selling organic goods unnecessarily difficult.

Organic processors and handlers are vital in ensuring that organic crops and livestock reach consumers. But connecting organic producers (like farmers and livestock operators) with organic processors/handlers, and ensuring the integrity of the organic supply chain, can be challenging.

The Organic Integrity Database can help producers identify organic processors to partner with. Though organic processing/handling operation numbers have lagged behind organic producers, the enforcement of Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) in March 2024 may lead to an increase in facilities capable of processing organic product.

A First-Generation Farmer Perspective: Alan Wilson

First-generation farmer Alan Wilson shares his experiences and growth as the first person in his family to explore organic farming.

Putting Health First: Askegaard Organic Farm

For couple Mike and Barb Askegaard of Askegaard Organic Farm, organic farming provided a way to balance health in all aspects of their lives- their family, their customers, and the environment.   “We decided to certify as organic because we saw the negative effects...

Challenges in the Organic Certification Process

Transitioning a conventional operation to organic can at times feel like a daunting task filled with insurmountable obstacles. While it’s easy to become discouraged, many of the challenges associated with organic certification can be overcome with planning, ingenuity, and perseverance.

Mother Parkers: Organic Production Aligns with Values

Mother Parkers’ values paired with their customers’ interest in organic products made obtaining organic certification a logical step. The process did come with challenges, however. For Mother Parkers, which markets their products in Canada and the US, understanding equivalency agreements between the countries presented challenges.

Frequently Asked: What is Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE)?

The USDA will implement Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) on March 19, 2024. The new regulations will impact all segments of the organic industry. This post addresses common SOE questions.

10,000 Acres: Kollasch Family Transitions Large Operation to Organic

Matt Kollasch and his father were operating a 10,000-acre conventional farm when they made the decision to transition to organic. The cost of operating conventionally had become unsustainable.

The Organic Certification Process

All operators seeking initial organic certification must complete a similar six step process regardless of which certification agency they partner with. This process ensures that organic operators remain in compliance with organic regulations and helps maintain the integrity of the organic supply chain.

Randy Mosel: chapter support aids organic transition

The loss of his dairy cows led Randy Mosel to transition his operation to organic. “My cows were fed a TMR containing homegrown alfalfa, corn silage, ground corn, and earlage,” Mosel recalled. At the time, Mosel treated his fields with synthetic inputs to control pests and weeds.

TOPP Brings Plains Region Producers Together

USDA Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP) events continue to draw members of local and regional farming communities together. In early summer, more than 20 producers from the TOPP Plains region attended an Intro to Organic Agriculture Field Day on John's...

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?

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

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