CERTIFICATION PROCESS AT A GLANCE
Select a certification to view specific steps and fees for certification type
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q. Do I need to be certified to sell my product as organic?
A. Yes, for most persons or business entities. However, the National Organic Standards allow an exemption for operations (farms, processors, handlers) whose gross agricultural income from organic sales totals $5000 or less annually. These operations must comply with the organic production Standards, but do not need to be inspected or certified. They cannot use the USDA Organic Seal or any organic certification agency mark, nor represent their products as “certified organic.” Finally, these exempt organic products cannot be used as ingredients identified as organic in processed products made by another processor or handler. Further, they cannot be used as livestock feed by certified organic farmers or those in the process of transitioning their livestock. The Standards also outline several other exceptions to the usual certification requirements, for retail food establishments and for some handlers that do not process.
Q. Does MOSA certify in my region?
A. Likely, if your operation is located in the Midwestern United States (MOSA does not certify outside of the U.S.), and possibly if you are located elsewhere in the U.S., dependent upon the availability of MOSA-endorsed organic inspectors. Based in the Midwest, MOSA is expanding outward as the organic movement grows and more businesses request our services in new regions. Please contact us to find out if we serve your area.
Q. How long will the certification process take?
A. The entire process usually takes about 12 weeks to complete, but can be shorter or longer depending upon the complexity of your operation and your ability to resolve concerns or provide additional information. MOSA also offers Expedited Service for an additional fee; please see the Expedited Service Program, or contact us.
Q. Can I buy an organic farm/business?
A. Certainly, but the organic certification would not necessarily transfer to you. Because certification is for a person’s unique site, management, and Organic Plan, a major change in any of these (such as new ownership) would require a review and revision of the Organic Plan and an on-site inspection before certification could be granted to the new owner.
Q. What does certification cost?
A. For first-time applicants, the cost is about $1040 for a farmer and about $1300 for a processor or handler; the actual cost will vary depending on the final cost of the on-site inspection. For a farmer, $590 minimum is due with the application and the remaining $450 can be divided among the remaining quarters of the year. For a processor or handler, $750 minimum is due with the application and the remaining $550 can be divided among the remaining quarters of the year. In subsequent years, the certification fee is based on the previous year’s organic sales, so that the cost of certification is tied to the sales benefit it provides to the operation. Please see the Fee Schedules for your type of operation, and contact MOSA with any questions.
Q. How much record-keeping will be required?
A. Applying for organic certification requires completing the Organic System Plan for your type of operation (crops, livestock, processor, etc.) and any of the forms required for your application (for example, a Field Plan, Livestock List, or Product Profile). Once certified, the annual re-application process is much simpler, typically only requiring completion of the Annual Update and any annual short forms, such as the Current Year Field Plan or Seed Table. Beyond the application forms, maintaining sales records, a production record (such as a field activity log for a crop farmer, a health record for a livestock farmer, or a processing log for a food handler) is required to show whether or not the Organic Plan is being followed. Finally, some records may be required to document a response (such as cleaning equipment or switching sanitizers) taken to protect the integrity of organic products.
Q. Is there reimbursement money available for certification costs? Am I eligible?
A. Probably, if your operation is certified or actively seeking certification and has paid certification expenses during the past year. The money is available through the Organic Cost Share Program, a federal program that was renewed in 2014 for five years and is meant to offset some of the costs incurred by organic operators. The Program reimburses up to 75% of organic certification and inspection costs (but not late fees) with a maximum annual reimbursement of $750 for each scope of certification (crop, livestock, wild crop, processor/handler). MOSA has compiled a list of the state agencies that administer the Cost Share funds; these agencies typically require completion of a one-page application each fall. MOSA also provides verification of certification status and paid fee information, and we are happy to answer any questions you have about the program.
Q. Why should I choose MOSA?
A. MOSA was founded in 1999 with the goal of providing superior customer service while partnering with our clients through a fair, efficient, and cost-effective organic certification application process. Much has changed since then: the creation of the National Organic Program, the immense growth of the organic foods movement, and the ever-increasing pace of technological advances. MOSA has strived to adapt nimbly to these challenges and opportunities, becoming one of the first certifiers accredited by the National Organic Program, dramatically increasing our staff, and developing both all-electronic and all-paper application methods. We now provide certification services to nearly 2000 organic operations of many types, from small farms to large food processors. We certify more dairy and other livestock operations than any other US certifier, and we are a strong national voice in discussions about the organic standards and other issues affecting the organic community. Our goal is to support our core objectives of serving our customers and strengthening the integrity of the organic certification system. Our mission is to provide practical, reliable, and friendly certification services.
Q. How do I apply for certification?
When you are ready to apply for certification, you can either contact us to receive a paper application packet through the mail, or you can apply electronically through our secure online MyMOSA system. We do not accept applications by email. Please contact us with any questions.
Q. Where do I find the USDA National Organic Standards?
The complete regulatory code can be found at: USDA Organic Regulations.
Q. Where can I find The National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances?
This subpart of the National Organic Standards can be found at: The National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.