In a report
prepared for the European Parliament, Harvard researchers noted the health benefits of organic food. In particular, they noted that lower levels of pesticides led to better brain health and a reduced risk of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children. Many people are now discovering the health benefits of organic foods and want to know more about them. For those wondering how organic foods are regulated, we've got the answers.
USDA inspectors do not perform certifications themselves. Instead, they partner with more than 80 certifying agents
worldwide. These certifying agents have the sole authority for issuing a USDA Certified Organic label.
Achieving USDA Certification
The process of obtaining USDA certification is quite complex. It begins with an application and fees that vary based upon the size of the farming operation. Part of the application will include a written plan that spells out a producer's agricultural practices.
Once the application has been submitted, a certifying agent will review it for accuracy. In particular, they look for evidence that certain pesticides or GMOs have been used on the land during the previous 36 months. If that's the case, a farmer must wait until at least 3 years have passed before an application is approved. In any case, the waiting period for certification is a minimum of 12 months.
A physical inspection will take place to verify the information in the application and written plan. The results of that inspection are then reviewed to see whether or not an operation qualifies.
Maintaining USDA Certification
Certified Organic status is only good for a one-year period from the date of certification. This means that farmers who wish to maintain their credentials must reapply every year. This process is somewhat less time-consuming than original certification, but nonetheless remains very stringent.
An annual inspection is required as part of the recertification process. During an inspection, certifying agents will look at several areas of a farming operation, including:
- The written plan, to verify the practices outlined in it are being followed. They will also determine whether or not there have been significant changes in agricultural practices since the plan was submitted.
- Pest management practices.
- Storage and preparation procedures.
- Auditing paperwork such as invoices and sales.
Some locations will be subject to residue testing as well. This requirement comes from enhanced regulations that took effect back in 2013. As a result, certifying agents must randomly test products from at least five percent of the operations they approve each year. Residue testing ensures that any chemical residues are within the allowable limits under the National Organic Program. This is important, as even trace amounts of residue can occur even in organic farms due to runoff.
Australian Certified Organic
The Australian Certified Organic
(ACO) standard is recognized as one of the most rigorous in all the world. CHOICE, a consumer watchdog agency, awarded ACO the coveted award for Australia's Best Food Endorsement Program
back in 2010. They won this award in part based upon their "transparency, consumer friendliness, freedom from conflict of interests, stakeholder engagement, equitable participation, and label verification."
To achieve certification, a farmer must submit an application to a certification office along with a Statutory Declaration Questionnaire. This questionnaire is very thorough, and requires details about an operation's history, production plan, and current operations.
Upon submission, the application and questionnaire go through a desk review before being passed on to an inspector. If satisfied, the inspector will make a site review to certify the production, preparation, and processing standards. Those who pass this inspection will be considered "pre-certified."
During the pre-certification period, at least one full farm audit will take place. This involves taking soil and/or tissue samples to verify there is no contamination or heavy metals present. Organic certification is not given until an operation can prove that it has fully complied with the ACO for at least 12 months.
For meat producers, all livestock must have had access only to areas that complied with the ACO for their entire lives, or have been born on that land after it was subject to inspection. This means that for ranchers such as us, the certification process can actually take much longer.
Maintaining ACO Certification
To maintain Australian Certified Organic status, farmers must:
- Undergo at least one annual audit from a certifying official.
- Be subject to random, unscheduled tissue tests and/or audits.
- Pay the required fees, including those associated with random testing.
- Maintain full production records.
- Ensure compliance with the ACO as well as any new regulatory requirements.
Maintaining ACO certification requires a complex strategy and careful attention to detail. The rigid recertification requirements are another reason why achieving Australian Certified Organic status is so prestigious.
Cleaver Organics: USDA and ACO Certified
Achieving USDA or ACO certification is a major accomplishment for any farmer or rancher. Here at Cleaver's Organics, we have earned both. We've also maintained our certifications for a number of years. As such, you can be sure we know what it means to utilize organic best practices.
Our livestock is raised on approved land and are allowed to free roam. These grass-fed cattle are never given synthetic pesticides, growth hormones, or antibiotics. We treat our animals humanely, giving them plenty of access to fresh air and sunlight as well as clean water.
You'll notice the difference in the taste and the quality of our meat. When you choose beef from Cleaver's Organics, you'll be getting delicious meat that is not only delicious, but is also good for you. We ship anywhere within the Continental United States, and invite you to visit our website
to view our full selection.