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Steps to Become USDA Organic

How to become USDA Certified Organic

(for an in-depth, step-by-step review of the steps to certification, visit NRCS East National Technology Support Center's workshop page and download The ABCs of Organic Certification.)

Step 1 - Find a Certifying Agent (Certifying Agents are accredited by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service)

Step 2 - Work with your chosen Certifying Agent to develop an Organic System Plan (OSP)

Information that must be provide to the Certifying Agent:

  • The type of operation to be certified;

  • A history of substances applied to land for the previous 3 years;

  • The organic products being grown, raised, or processed;

  • The organic system plan (OSP) – a plan describing practices and substances used in production. The OSP also must describe monitoring practices to be performed to verify that the plan is effectively implemented, a record-keeping system, and practices to prevent commingling of organic and nonorganic products and to prevent contact of products with prohibited substances.


Applicants for certification must keep accurate post-certification records for 5 years concerning the production, harvesting, and handling of agricultural products that are to be sold as organic. These records must document that the operation is in compliance with the regulations and verify the information provided to the certifying agent. Access to these records must be provided to authorized representatives of USDA, including the certifying agent.

Step 3 - Certification via your Certifying Agent


Other Useful Links (sustainable & organic info) 

The ABCs of Organic Certification (NRCS Video) Download and watch this one hour video for an in-depth overview of USDA's National Organic Program - A must watch if you are considering transitioning to organic production!!

Exploring the Organic Option (from the National Organic Program)

Organic Certification Process (from NCAT) A guide to help organic producers and handlers understand the certification process

Rodale Institute Organic Training 

Rodale Institute Organic System Plan Development!  

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition 

National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (NCAT)

Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group 

Virginia Biological Farming Network

< Back to Virginia Organic Initiative page