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Gaining Ground - Excerpt from Part 3: Organic Certification and Preserving Organic Integrity

11 Organic Certification

2. CHOOSING A CERTIFYING AGENCY

When planning your transition, it is a good idea to contact a certifying agency right away to discuss your situation. There are many different certifying agencies across Canada; it is important to find the certifying agency that best meets your needs. Talking with fellow farmers who have experience with certification can help you to make a wise choice. You might consider some of the following factors when choosing a certification agency.

2.1 Access to markets

To market your product in the USA, the European Union, Japan or Quebec, you will have to meet their respective standards. Not all certifying agencies are accredited to provide certification under all standards, so choose an agency accordingly.

2.2 Cost and other requirements

Certification costs vary between different certifying agencies. It is important to look at the whole fee structure. Some certifying agencies charge a flat rate, others have additional fees based on the acreage or total sales of your operation. Some may have additional fees for issuing sales transaction documents. A number of certifying agencies are largely run by volunteers and may require that certification applicants participate in meetings and other volunteer activity.

2.3 Services provided

Good communication between the certifying agency and the applicant is essential. Find out what services are provided. Agencies may communicate through client representatives and newsletters, or may organize grower meetings, field days and workshops.

2.4 Documentation

Generally, the same type of documentation is required from each agency, though the forms and volume can vary, particularly for the paperwork for annual renewals.

2.5 Structure

The structure of certifying agencies varies considerably. Some are large international organizations, whereas others are regional cooperatives run mostly by volunteers. Choose a structure that you feel comfortable with.

For more from Part 3: Organic Certification and Preserving Organic Integrity and more information about certification during transition, order Gaining Ground: Making a Successful Transition to Organic Farming from the publications page.And visit the Organic Certification Bodies page.