Certified Organic Producers

Information on Becoming a Certified Organic Producer

(Crop, Wild Crop, and Livestock Scopes)

Except for operations whose gross agricultural income from organic sales totals $5,000 or less, farm and processing operations that grow and process organic foods must be certified by USDA-accredited certifying agents. The Maryland Department of Agriculture is a USDA accredited certifying agent for producers and handlers located in Maryland.

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.
(a) Exemptions.
(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 Rule 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 organic.certification@maryland.gov

Other Resources:

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 the Maryland Department of Agriculture are required to submit an updated Organic System Plan (MDA_DOC_002 Crop Application, MDA_DOC_004 Livestock Application) 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 surrender, revocation, or suspension; yearly renewal is needed to maintain certification. Producers must submit all required appendices as applicable, as well as supporting documentation outlined in the applications.

New Producer Organic Certification

After the application and fee are submitted, our staff will review the application and supporting documents for compliance with the National Organic Program requirements and contact the applicant for follow-up or additional documentation as needed. Once the application has been through the initial review and all required information is received, an inspector will contact the producer to schedule an inspection. The inspection report will then be reviewed by our staff, who may again reach out if more information or documentation is needed. The applicant is then 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 the Exemption

Producers are exempt from certification who gross $5,000 or less in organic agricultural sales. The Maryland Department of Agriculture has created a registered exempt program. Producers who qualify and submit the required forms and fees will be listed in the Maryland Organic Directory and on MDA’s website.

Producers who wish to register exempt with the Maryland Department of Agriculture should submit a Registration Application for Exempt Producers (Registration Fee of $30.00).​

​Organic Applications

​All organic crop and livestock producers must submit an annual update to maintain organic certification. No additional fees are required for livestock certification. Applications must be fully completed and include all required attachments. If you experience any problems or technical difficulties filling out these documents please contact our office.
  • Organic Application Fee: $500.00
  • ​Organic Exempt Application Fee: $30.00

Crop and Pasture Documents
Livestock Documents


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