Trying out new things is not always easy. Remember trying to ride your bike without training wheels for the first time or taking your driving course at the DMV? Once you learn the basics and have a clear understanding, the simpler the tasks become. The same principle applies for many other things that we do in our daily lives but, just like riding that bike, it takes work and education. Most jobs are made up of multiple tasks that must learned in order to achieve a certain outcome. Maybe you’re a teacher, engineer or maybe ever a farmer. All these jobs require lots of learning and educating of yourself as well as others. Today, farmers have the big responsibility of producing the food supply for millions of people across the country. Who helps those farmers and ranchers navigate and learn when it comes to Organic production and certification? That’s a great question. Today we get to more deeply introduce you to A Bee Organic and International Certification Services (ICS), both are Organic divisions of Where Food Comes From.
Becoming USDA Organic
Remember what we said about trying new things? The same applies for farmers as they look to convert their operations to Organic farms. This is where A Bee Organic and ICS come into the picture. A Bee Organic and ICS are both an accredited Certification Agency (ACA). A Bee Organic has been in place since 2010, ICS has been in place since 1979.
Those wanting to be certified Organic must follow Organic standards set by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP). By following those standards, producers and handlers can label products as Organic and display the USDA Organic seal, which you’ve probably seen on products today.
A Bee Organic and ICS want all of their clients to maintain successful Organic operations, so they always provide them with a copy of the NOP regulations. If there is confusion, staff will explain regulations to help support the clients through the process and recommend clients seek out Organic consultants if further system development and management is needed. They also provide resources and communicate current notices, processes, and legal requirements. Understanding the regulations and how they apply builds the foundation to a successful Organic business.
Who They Support?
There are four different categories of Organic Certification, and ICS and A Bee Organic work with customers in all segments. They are handler, livestock, crop and wild crop.
Let’s start by explaining what a handler is. This is any operation that is engaged in the handling of agricultural products, including those that handle crops and livestock as defined by the NOP regulations. For example, if you clean and cut the produce, you would need an Organic handler certification. Whereas, if you bought packaged coffee beans and resold them, as is, without opening the packaging you would not need a handler certification. Different types of handlers consist of on-farm handlers, re-packers, co-packers and processors. Additional information about this can be found in the NOP Rule.
Next, certifying livestock consists of any cattle, sheep, goats, swine, poultry or equine animals used for food or in the production of food, fiber, feed, or other agricultural-based consumer products per the NOP. Apiary production is also considered livestock certification. This certification involves the environmental conditions, food supply, and care of the animals. Organic livestock must be fed organically produced feed, ensuring the animals receive adequate nutrition. Ruminant livestock certification must include a pasture plan. This also includes the elimination of certain substances and chemicals. Any producer of Organic livestockmust establish a year-round plan to accommodate the health of their livestock.
Crop production has specific regulations, including maintaining and/or improving natural resources. Crop production includes field crops- both annual and perennial, greenhouse production, and hydroponic or aquaponic systems. One important thing to note about Organic crop verification is the use of GMO, sewage sludge and ionizing radiation is never allowed under any circumstance. There are also specific practices producers must follow when it comes to keeping the soil fertile and cultivated. This includes everything from crop rotation to disposal of crop waste materials.
Because wild harvested crops are picked, not produced, they are a separate category that focuses on conservation of the crop and harvest area environment. Just as with crop production, the harvest area must be documented to be free of prohibited substances for 3 years prior to harvest.
If it seems like a lot of information to process, that’s because it is. Now you understand why A Bee Organic and ICS are so vital to their clients and the Organic industry.
A Bee Organic and ICS, both divisions of Where Food Comes From, Inc., are proud to educate you on the certification of Organic products. We are all in this together, learning, growing, and changing the way we produce for generations to come. You want the story behind your food and we’re here to help. As always, to learn more about all of our verification programs, visit us at Where Food Comes From, A Bee Organic or ICS to learn about their services.