How to become a ‘certified organic’ food producer

By Gary Sliworsky, Ag rep, Emo

If you decide to become an “organic” food producer, the next step is to decide to become “certified organic.”
After June 30, 2009, all organic food producers in Canada will have to be certified if they are selling organic products outside the country (export) or outside of their province (inter-provincial).
Currently there are no “intra-provincial” regulations for producers from Ontario who are selling to customers within Ontario, however, many stores, processors, and food buyers will request products be “certified organic” for the benefits of their business.
Hugh Martin, Organic Production Program Lead with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, explains the process of becoming certified.
The main reason to become certified is to assure your customers and buyers that your operation has been inspected, and that your products meet the requirements of the Canadian organic regulations and the related standards.
Being certified will cost farmers roughly $500-$1,000 per year depending on the size and complexity of their farm.
The other cost of certification is the paperwork for the application, as well as to satisfy the certification body (CB) and inspectors that you are managing your business in a way that can verify you are in compliance with the standards and can document the audit trail on products to show their traceability and your ability to maintain the organic integrity of the product.
Steps to organic certification include contacting certification bodies (CBs operating in Ontario are listed at “Organic Food and Farming Certification” at www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/organic/certification.htm).
You also should:
•Identify certification costs, appropriate details of the standards, inquire about accreditations needed for the sale of your products (all accredited CBs will be using the Canadian Organic Standards), and request a copy of the standards;
•Read and understand the standards and the requirements of being certified organic;
•Research various organic production practices (compare to your farm situation and to certification and standards details);
•Begin the transition of your farm and/or facilities to organic (in most cases, you can transition the property in stages assuming you can maintain the organic integrity of the products you are producing); and
•Develop necessary paperwork and audit trail to document your products, inputs, and various procedures for traceability and organic integrity.
Part 2 of this article will continue next week.
Dates to remember
•Jan. 7-9–Large animal clinic dates for Dr. Blair Simonson (call 274-7393 to book an appointment); and
•Jan. 13-14–Large animal clinic dates for Dr. Dan Matyasovszky (call 1-807-475-3837 to book an appointment).

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