Baystate Organic Certifiers focuses solely on certification of organic operations and is a National Organic Program accredited organic certifying agent owned and operated by Massachusetts Independent Certification, Inc. (MICI). MICI is a non-profit business dedicated to sustainable agriculture and food certification organized as a 501(c)3 corporation. MICI is dedicated to providing affordable certification services to farms and food processing and handling operations.
Please follow the links below for the program manual, all application forms and fees:
Steps to Certification
To become certified, fill out an application called an Organic System Plan (OSP) that describes your operation and explains how it works. Electronic versions of these forms are available for download through the links at the top of the page. You will only need to submit the entire completed plan once. After that submission, your organic submission will be entered by Baystate, and you will be sent a copy for editing. Because you will start with a completed plan, renewing your certification is a much easier process than first year certification.
So, how is it done? Organic certification involves an application, initial review of the application to see if it qualifies, inspection, final review of the inspection report, and finally, certification for those who meet the standards. BOC provides assistance for any questions you may have along the way, so please contact any one of our staff.
1. Submit Application – Your Organic System Plan (OSP)
You may apply for certification at any time. However, we do encourage farm operations to apply for any one of the three spring application deadlines. There are three different deadlines for application: February 15th, March 15th, and May 1st. These dates refer to the postmark date of your application. These deadlines correspond to dates you will be notified for certification decisions. Applications received before February 15th will receive their certification decision by May 1st. Applications received before March 15th will receive their certification decision by June 1st. Applications received before May 1st will receive their certification decision by July 15th. Applications received outside of these deadlines will receive a certification decision after their organic certification inspection has been completed. This process can be expedited to a matter of 4-6 weeks for operations with complete applications that are prepared for inspection and certification. If you require expedited certification, call the Baystate office as soon as possible in the application process, so we can arrange to have an inspector ready to inspect your operation.
Part of your application packet contains a checklist to assist in finishing your application packet. Following this checklist will help ensure that your submitted application packet is complete. All business-related information on the application forms will be kept strictly confidential. If you have any questions about the forms, or whether specific questions or additional forms apply to your operation, please contact any one of the Baystate staff, and we will do our best to answer your questions.
2. BOC Reviews Application and OSP
Once we receive your application, we will notify you of its receipt and whether it is complete. If the application is incomplete, BOC will provide you with a list of any missing paperwork needed to make it complete or if you need to provide more clarification. A member of BOC staff will review your application to determine whether your OSP is compliant to the Organic Standards and is ready to move forward with inspection.
When the initial review is complete, an inspector will schedule your inspection visit to inspect all aspects of your operation. The purpose of the inspection is to verify that what is detailed in your OSP is happening in practice. Expect to spend two to four hours with the inspector. Inspections need to be scheduled during a time and season when we can inspect what is being certified. That means that crop inspections do not begin until field work begins in the spring. The inspector then files an inspection report detailing your visit to the BOC office for final review.
4. BOC Reviews Inspection Report and Makes a Certification Decision
Our staff will review the inspection report and determine if your operation meets the Organic Standards. They will let you know of any issues or requests for further information. If there are any issues or noncompliances found, you will be given a chance to correct them.
5. Final Notification
Once the final review is complete, you will receive a letter from BOC informing you of your certification status and any requirements for ongoing certification, and if there are no open noncompliances, a copy of your certification certificate. Should you disagree with Baystate Organic Certifier’s decision concerning your operation, you may appeal that decision according to the process detailed in the Standards.
6. Cost Share Reimbursement
Once you have received your certification, you are eligible for the cost share reimbursement as a part of the farm bill. Organic operations can receive 75% of certification fees back to them, up to $750 total per scope of certification each year. Operations that are certified for more than one scope may apply for reimbursement for each scope but need a receipt for the payment of each scope. Fees must be paid in full in order to get the reimbursement.
7. Annual Renewal and Inspection
Organic certification must be renewed annually. Each year, your certification will be renewed, and each year, annual certification fees are due. To remain certified in good standing, every operation must be inspected annually and update BOC of any OSP changes, new labels, or other changes to your operation. Your annual renewal date is set at the time you submit your initial application for certification. That means if you submitted for our February 15th deadline, for example, your renewal application will be due on February 15th every year going forward. Renewal dates are listed on your certification certificate.
The $5,000 Exemption
Per section 205.101 of the National Organic Standards, farms and businesses whose gross agricultural income from organic sales totals $5,000 or less annually are exempt from the requirement to be certified. However, exempt farms and businesses must comply with all of the applicable organic production and handling requirements of the Organic Standards and the products from exempt operations shall not be used as organic in processed products produced by an organic handling operation.
The National Organic Standards prohibit Baystate Organic Certifiers from conducting organic consulting for its clients. If you are looking for assistance completing the organic application forms, and you live in Massachusetts, you can get assistance from the NOFA-MA. Outside of Massachusetts, you can contact the Organic Trade Association for a list of consultants that are members of the trade association.
Any new farms and businesses interested in organic certification should contact Eric Hanson at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (802) 440-6483.