Transitioning to Certified Organic in Michigan: Where to Start?


August 1, 2018 - Author: <>

The process of a farm becoming Certified Organic, through the National Organic Program, requires significant time and commitment.  This Michigan State University Extension bulletin was developed to outline steps to initiate the process and to aid farmers in deciding whether this type of certification is the best route for their farm.

Who Can Benefit From This Information?

  • Farmers seeking to transition to organic practices.
  • New farmers deciding whether to farm organically.
  • Agricultural educators who want to have a better understanding of organic farming.
  • Farmers who want to include “USDA organic” or “organic” on the label of their grains, produce and livestock.

Facts to Consider

  • Food labeled as organic must be USDA-certified.
  • Certification can be done only by a USDA-approved certifying agency.
  • Farms that gross less than $5,000 per year are exempt from organic certification but still follow the guidelines of the National Organic Program (NOP).
  • Growers wishing to export organic produce from the United States must meet the certification requirements of the importing country.

Should You Certify Your Farm?

  • Do you have the knowledge or means to obtain the knowledge to farm using the organic practices required for certification?
  • Will you gain value if the farm is certified, through either price premium, additional customers or personal satisfaction?
  • Does this method of farming fit with your short and long-term production and marketing goals?

Possible Benefits from Certification

  • To gain a price premium on your agricultural products.
  • To ensure your customers that you follow organic practices.
  • To enter into a market growing at a rate of 20 percent per year (USDA/ARS).

Why You May Not Wish to Certify Your Farm

  • You already have a reliable customer base.
  • You do not or are not able to follow NOP guidelines.
  • You do not have a market that offers a premium for organic products.

What is Needed for Certification?

  • Land that has not received any NOP-prohibited inputs for 3 years or more (see page 4, #8).
  • A farm plan that explains how the land was managed and will be managed for the next 3 years (see page 5, # 5).
  • Records of your inputs and harvests for the past 3 years.
  • Annual inspection of the farm by a certifying agency.

Download this bulletin to learn more about what it takes to transition your farm to organic production.



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