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Organic agriculture is a complex process that requires extensive accountability through diligent record keeping and documentation. Organic agriculture provides benefits to the environment by requiring practices that are more in tune with nature and promote biodiversity, water conservation and soil enhancement. Property owners are required to stop all non-organic practices on their land for three years prior to the certification process. Farmers who are interested in organic agriculture should fully understand the process, requirements and additional work associated with adding the label of “ORGANIC” to their product.
The amount of record keeping and documentation required for an organic operation is much more detailed than for conventional production. Records must “fully disclose all activities and transactions in sufficient detail to be readily understood and audited” (NOP Section 205.103 (b)(2)). In addition, the Organic System Plan which is an additional component of the documentation, must be up to date and on file at all times.
One criteria for being certified organic is to use organic seeds. If an organic seed type is unavailable, the farmer must provide documentation of efforts to acquire the seed from three different sources prior to being able to use a non-organic seed. The non-organic seed must be non-treated and not a GMO.
Organic producers, processors, and handlers must use materials that meet the requirements set under the National Organic Standard. A list of these materials can be found at the Washington State Department of Agriculture website and at the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). (see Additional Resources.)
Utilizing natural methods to address issues on the farm is encouraged and must be used prior to utilizing any organic sprays. Sprays and unnatural methods that meet organic requirements are considered a last resort to natural methods. The property owner must prove that natural methods of pest con-trol have been ineffective before being allowed to utilize alternative methods.
Depending on the animal and what you are producing from the animal, different requirements apply regarding what it means to be “organic” (see NOP Section 205.236 – 205.239).
Any changes to an agricultural operation from when it was certified requires farmers to contact the certifier; i.e. undocumented drift coming from adjacent fields, planting a new crop, new management practice.