On the USDA website, Miles McEvoy, National Organic Program Deputy Administrator, outlines the five steps for becoming a certified organic grower in his blog post, Organic 101: Five Steps to Organic Certification (http://blogs.usda.gov/2012/10/10/organic-101-five-steps-to-organiccertification/). Each step is an excerpt from his original post.

STEP 1: Develop an organic system plan. The organic system plan is the foundation of the organic certification process. Created by the producer or handler seeking certification, it details how an operation will comply with the regulations based on its unique characteristics.

STEP 2: Implement the organic system plan. Have it reviewed by a certifying agent. Organic operations are certified by private, foreign or State entities that have been accredited by USDA. These entities are called certifying agents and are located throughout the United States and around the world.

STEP 3: Receive inspection. Every operation that applies for organic certification is first inspected onsite by a certifying agent. For example, for crops they include inspection of fields, soil conditions, crop health, approaches to management of weeds and other crop pests, water systems, storage areas and equipment. At a handling or processing facility, an inspector evaluates the receiving, processing, and storage areas used for organic ingredients and finished products.

STEP 4: Have a certifying agent review the inspection report. The inspector presents findings to the certifying agent following observation of practices on the farm or facility as they compare to the organic system plan. The inspector also presents an assessment of the risk of contamination from prohibited materials and might even take soil, tissue or product samples as needed. The inspector analyzes potential hazards and critical control points and makes sure procedures to prevent contamination are adequate.

STEP 5: Receive a decision from the certifier. If an operation complies with the rules, the certifying agent issues an organic certificate listing products that can be sold as organic from that operation. The organic farm or facility continues to update its plan as it modifies its practices, and an inspection is done at least once a year to maintain certification.

To learn more about becoming certified to USDA organic standards and to find a certifying agent, visit http://1.usa.gov/organic-certification and http://blogs.usda.gov/2012/10/10/organic-101-five-steps-to-organiccertification/#sthash.m1I0vlhX.dpuf.