Information on Becoming a Certified Organic Producer
Except for operations whose gross agricultural income from organic sales totals $5,000 or less, farm operations that grow and/or process organic foods must be certified by USDA-accredited certifying agents. The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) is a USDA accredited certifying agent for producers located in Maryland.
MDA certifies farm operations to NOP standards under the following scopes:
- Wild Crops
- Handling/Processing (small scale, on-farm processing/handling only)
The National Organic Program requires:
§205.100 What has to be certified.
(a) Except for operations exempt or excluded in §205.101, each production or handling operation or specified portion of a production or handling operation that produces or handles crops, livestock, livestock products, or other agricultural products that are intended to be sold, labeled, or represented as “100 percent organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))” must be certified according to the provisions of subpart E of the NOP: Final Rule and must meet all other applicable requirements of this part.
(c) Any operation that:
(1) Knowingly sells or labels a product as organic, except in accordance with the Act, shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $10,000 per violation.
(2) Makes a false statement under the Act to the Secretary, a governing State official, or an accredited certifying agent shall be subject to the provisions of section 1001 of title 18, United States Code.
§205.101 Exemptions and exclusions from certification.
(1) A production or handling operation that sells agricultural products as “organic” but whose gross agricultural income from organic sales totals $5,000 or less annually is exempt from certification under subpart E of the NOP: Final Rule and from submitting an organic system plan for acceptance or approval under § 205.201 but must comply with the applicable organic production and handling requirements of subpart C of the NOP: Final Rule and the labeling requirements of § 205.301. The products from such operations shall not be used as ingredients identified as organic in processed products produced by another handling operation.
Information for New and Continuing Applicants
As a potential certified organic producer, you need to understand and comply with the following:
National Organic Program (NOP) Rules. The rule can be found at www.ams.usda.gov/nop. In addition to the NOP standards regulating substances used in organic processing and handling, other Federal, State, and local laws and regulations apply to protect food safety and public health. The authority of these laws supersedes any organic standards; organic producers must comply with these other laws pertaining to their organic operation. Other applicable laws do not provide exemption for use of prohibited substances.
Maryland producers should go to the following websites for more information on the various state laws that may pertain to your organic operation:
Maryland Department of Agriculture: www.mda.maryland.gov. Search under “License and Permits,” “State Chemist,” “Plant\Pests,” “Egg Law,” or “Feed\Food Safety”.
Sign and Label Order Form -Word Format: All MDA certified producers are provided with one sign upon initial certification. Additional signs and stick on labels can be ordered. Fees are specified on the order form.
If you have any questions or issues filling out a form please do not hesitate to contact us by phone at (410) 841-5769 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) Generic and Brand Names Product List for Producers. Information is available on the website at www.omri.org and on NOP’s website http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/indexIE.htm. OMRI reviews products for compliance with National List and is intended to be a resource to help with the identification of products in the marketplace. Other materials not reviewed by OMRI may also meet NOP standards and will be reviewed by MDA for compliance when submitted by a producer.
Navigating the NOP - Crops is a guide created to address frequently asked questions about organic crop production in Maryland.
ATTRA has developed many forms suitable for NOP compliant record keeping. Information is available on the website https://attra.ncat.org/
Producer Annual Update for Organic Certification
Producers currently certified by MDA are required to submit an updated Organic System Plan by the anniversary date listed on their most recent organic certificate and pay the application fee. Although organic certificates do not expire and are valid until surrendered, revoked, or suspended, yearly renewal is required to maintain certification. Producers must submit all required appendices, as applicable, and supporting documentation outlined in the application. Application documents for annual updates are found on the right side of this page.
New Producer Organic Certification
New applicants should use the application documents listed on the right side of this page. After the applicaiton and fee are submitted, our staff will review the application and supporting documentations for compliance with National Organic Program requirements. Staff may contact the applicant for follow-up or additional documentation as needed. Once the application has been reviewed and all required information is received, an inspector will contact the producer to schedule an inspeciton. The inspection report is reviewed by MDA staff who may again reach out if additional information or documentation is needed. Following review of the inspection report, MDA staff make a certification decision and the applicant is issued a certificate or a letter indicating why they could not be certified. Initial certification is effective as soon as land and crops are eligible.
Producers Who Qualify for Exemption
Producers who gross $5,000 or less in organic agricultural sales are exempt from organic certification. MDA has created a registered exempt program. Producers who qualify and submit the required forms and fees will be listed in the Maryland Organic Directory on MDA's website.
Producers who wish to register exempt with MDA should a submit an Organic Exempt Application and associated fees ($30) annually. The application is found on the right side of this page.