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ORGANIC FOOD PRODUCTION AND CERTIFICATION IN WASHINGTON STATE
Carol A. Miles, Tamera K. Flores, and Miles McEvoy
According to the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), national sales of organic foods are increasing 20 to 30% annually, making organic food the fastest growing segment of the food industry. In 1998, Washington’s organic food industry sold over $70 million in organic food. In 1988, in response to a request from organic producers, the WSDA established the Organic Food Program (OFP). The WSDA OFP develops organic production standards and certifies organic producers, ensuring the integrity of organic food produced and sold in Washington State. The OFP also assists in developing markets for organic food, and it provides technical information pertaining to organic food production. The OFP meets regularly with an advisory board of organic producers, processors, and handlers. This publication is an overview of the Washington State organic production standards and certification process for producers of crops, mushrooms, livestock, and value-added products.
Organic Crop Production
The WSDA Organic Crop Production Standards and the Brand Name Materials List, both available from the OFP, are discussed below. The standards spell out allowed and prohibited production practices related to buffer zones, soil and plant nutrition, seeds, transplants, pest management, post-harvest handling, and record keeping. The Brand Name Materials List is an extensive list of pesticides, fertilizers, soil amendments, and other materials approved for use in organic production.
This publication is part of the Farming West of the Cascades series
Organic and conventional crops may be grown on the same farm. In addition to following the Organic Crop Production Standards, certification requires a buffer zone of 25 feet between organic sites and areas where prohibited materials are applied. An inspector from the OFP may sample crops along the buffer for pesticide residue. If pesticide drift occurs, the affected crops cannot be sold as organic. The OFP provides a letter with the certification application form that explains the organic standards and clarifies the issue of pesticide drift. The OFP recommends sharing this letter with neighboring farms or residences to make them aware of your farm’s organic status.
Annuals and biennials must be grown organically from seed to harvest. Perennials are considered organic when they have been grown for one year following organic growing practices.
Producers should use crop rotations, biological controls, and natural materials to manage pests. Synthetic insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides are prohibited, and they cannot have been used on the land for at least three years prior to organic certification. Growers must apply all approved materials according to their labels and in compliance with state and federal laws. Again, to prevent pesticide drift and contamination, buffer zones of at least 25 feet must separate land growing organic crops from land to which prohibited materials have been applied.
Soil and Plant Nutrition
The OFP encourages producers to use animal manure, compost, and green manure to build soil organic matter, maintain soil fertility, and encourage soil biological activity. Growers should not apply manure and compost at rates that exceed crop nutrient needs or during the rainy winter months because of water quality issues. Fresh manure must not be applied within 60 days of crop harvest, and manure should be composted before it is applied to any field growing food crops that may be consumed raw. The OFP allows the use of natural fertilizers and soil amendments for meeting specific nutrient needs, and it prohibits the use of synthetic fertilizers. In addition, unapproved fertilizers cannot have been used on the land for at least three years prior to organic certification.
The OFP allows use of some natural materials for postharvest processing and handling. Some of the materials and practices approved for postharvest use are beneficial insects, carbon dioxide gas, chlorine dioxide, controlled atmosphere storage, natural waxes (that do not contain synthetic additives), biodegradable soap, and soda ash used to float tree fruits. All materials must be used according to their labels and in compliance with state and federal laws. Antibiotics, artificial preservatives, irradiation, fumigants, fungicides, and other synthetic pesticides are some of the materials and practices the OFP prohibits.
Seeds should be untreated. Insecticide-treated seed is prohibited, and fungicide-treated seed may be used only if untreated seed is not available. If fungicide-treated seed is used, the producer must obtain a letter from the seed supplier stating that untreated seed is not available. This letter must be kept on record at the farm.
Producers must keep records for at least two years after the sale of an organic crop. Records should facilitate the tracing of all production steps from land preparation and planting through harvest. They should include the location of the acreage used for crop production as well as any additions made to the soil, applied to plants, or
WSDA Organic Food Program
The WSDA OFP manages organic certification in Washington State and has final approval of materials and practices used in organic production. For application packets or information, or for the list of organic certification agencies reviewed and recognized by the WSDA OFP, producers can contact: WSDA Organic Food Program PO Box 42560 Olympia, WA 98504-2560 phone: (360) 902-1877 fax: (360) 902-2087 email: email@example.com URL: www.wa.gov/agr/fsah/organic/ofp.htm
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added to irrigation water. Producers must retain purchase receipts and record soil fertility, pest management, and harvest activities to verify yields and sales.
Producers may use only natural materials in organic production. The Organic Crop Production Standards include lists of approved generic materials including fertilizers, growth promoters, soil amendments, pesticides, and postharvest treatments. The Brand Name Materials List presents commercially available materials that are approved for use in organic production. These lists assist producers in identifying organic materials, and local Cooperative Extension offices can further help producers decide which materials are best suited for their particular needs. Producers should always read labels before applying any pesticides. Only pesticides that are registered in Washington State may be applied. For registration information, growers can contact WSDA’s Pesticide Management Division (see Resources).
medium. Antibiotics are allowed only in the agar growing medium, but levels cannot exceed 1/25th of one gram per liter of agar mix. All pest control materials must be approved for use in organic food production (producers can refer to the Organic Crop Production Standards and the Brand Name Materials List). Producers should always read labels before applying any pesticides.
Organic Livestock Production
The WSDA Animal Production Standards for Organic Meat and Dairy Products, available from the WSDA OFP, are discussed below. These production standards apply to any animal that is raised for meat, dairy, or eggs, and they outline requirements for animal health care, feed, living conditions, record keeping, and labeling. Animals raised for organic meat or dairy must be raised according to these standards for at least 12 months prior to slaughter or production. If slaughter or production occurs in less than 12 months from birth, animals must be raised organically from birth. In addition, when animals are slaughtered less than 12 months from birth, their mothers must meet the criteria during the last 1/3 of gestation and while the slaughter animal is nursing.
Organic Mushroom Production
The WSDA Organic Mushroom Production Standards are designed to ensure high quality, residue-free mushrooms produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. The standards address agar, hay, straw, and wood production systems, but they do not address compost and manure production systems. At this time, compost- and manure-grown mushrooms may be certified organic on a case-by-case basis. Standards for growing medium and pest management are summarized below.
The OFP promotes an integrated approach to disease prevention, parasite control, and disease treatment. It prohibits the use of antibiotics and hormones for a herd’s daily health program, but producers of organic animals may market only healthy animals and animal products; they may not withhold disease treatment in order to represent animals or animal products as organic. Producers must treat sick animals, but treated animals and animal products cannot be sold as organic. Producers should contact their veterinary practitioner to determine appropriate treatments; however, the following paragraphs briefly describe the OFP standards for enzootic disease management and daily health programs. Necessary use of prohibited substances is also described. Enzootic Disease Management. The OFP approves the use of all vaccines for enzootic diseases (diseases that are regularly present in certain groups of animals in particular geographical locations). These vaccines include USDA licensed biologics, and they must be used in accordance with label directions. Approved vaccines include those: • Required by law (e.g., Brucellosis, emergency disease)
Mushrooms do not have the ability to manufacture food through photosynthesis and thus rely exclusively on the material in which they are grown for all their nutrition. Therefore, the growing medium is critical to the health and quality of mushrooms. Agar used as a growing medium may be non-organic; however, all plant-derived amendments (e.g., rice bran, cottonseed meal, wheat germ) used in the medium must be certified organic. Grain, straw, or hay used in the medium must be certified organic, and wood used for mushroom production must not have been treated with any prohibited materials for at least three years prior to harvest.
Because producing insect- and disease-free mushrooms requires special attention to cleanliness, producers may use chlorine bleach to sterilize equipment and facilities. They may not apply bleach to crops or the growing
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• Recommended by a licensed veterinary practitioner (e.g., IBR, BVD, PI3, BRSV, Clostridial diseases, Haemophilus) • Required for disease-control testing (e.g., tuberculosis antigen) For more information on testing and vaccination for regulated diseases, producers can contact the state veterinarian’s office at 360-902-1878. Daily Health Program. An integrated approach to disease prevention, parasite control, and disease treatment includes: • Approved, labeled botanical insecticides for external parasite control and for fly management • Natural materials used in homeopathic, naturopathic, and herbal remedies • Tamed iodine, alcohol, and hydrogen peroxide as disinfectants • Bleach (sodium hypochlorite) for use on machinery and facilities • Steam sterilization of equipment Approved organic prescription drugs, chemotherapeutic agents, anesthetics, and other controlled materials may be used in accordance with labels if prescribed or administered by a licensed veterinary practitioner. Over-the-counter remedies may not be used on organic food animals. Many veterinarians will work with producers to devise natural strategies for disease prevention and parasite control. Use Of Prohibited Substances. Dairy animals may not receive synthetic parasiticides or hormones for one year prior to organic milk production. They may not receive antibiotics for ninety days prior to organic milk production. Nonpoultry slaughter animals may not receive hormones, antibiotics, or synthetic parasiticides for one year prior to slaughter. Poultry may not receive hormones, antibiotics, or synthetic parasiticides from one day old until slaughter or throughout egg production. If prohibited substances such as antibiotics, hormones, and vaccines are necessarily used to maintain animal health, some types of animals may still be marketed as organic if specific time requirements are followed to transition the animals back to organic. For example, if a dairy cow requires treatment with an antibiotic, the cow’s milk may not be sold as organic for 90 days after treatment. The Animal Production Standards for Organic Meat and Dairy Products outline other specific time limits for transitioning back to organic.
range. They must also eat organic feed that has been produced according to the Organic Crop Production Standards. Organic birds must have 100% organically grown feed from the time they are one day old. Dairy animals must have 100% organic feed for ninety days prior to milk production, and they must have access to only certified organic pasture for at least one year prior to organic milk production. The following paragraphs briefly describe standards for feed additives and emergency feed. Feed Additives. The OFP approves the use of some feed additives including vitamins, minerals, amino acids (chelated and nonchelated), salt, molasses, mineral oil, enzymes, fish meal, and fish by-products. Before administering a feed additive, growers should determine that the specific product is approved. Prohibited feed additives include synthetic products, animal by-products (bloodmeal and bonemeal), processed or unprocessed animal waste (manure), and plastic. Emergency Feed. If there is an unforeseen shortage of organic feed in the area, animals may eat non-organic feed for a limited period. First, however, the producer must make every effort to locate organic feed, keeping a record of these efforts. The producer may not market dairy, eggs, and meat as organic during the period when animals receive non-organic feed. Also, there are specific time requirements for transitioning back to organic after organic feeding is recommenced. The transition period for dairy and eggs equals the amount of time that the animal received non-organic feed. For example, if an animal received non-organic feed for two days, dairy and eggs could not be marketed as organic for a total of four days; that is, two days while it received non-organic feed and two days after organic feeding recommenced. Meat may not be marketed as organic during the period when the animal receives non-organic feed and for 90 days after organic feeding is recommenced.
All organic animals must have access to outside areas; they cannot be raised in a confinement system. Every animal must have enough room to get up, lie down, turn around, groom, and stretch its limbs. The following paragraphs briefly describe living condition standards for organic poultry animals and nonpoultry animals. Poultry. Poultry must have access to outside areas and may be raised in houses or in movable pen systems that provide at least 4 ft. of living space per bird, and inside space must be at least 1.5 ft. per bird. If movable pen systems are used, the pasture or range they are housed on must be certified organic. Producers must provide
Organic animals must graze only on organic pasture and
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shade and dusting wallows, and laying birds must also have access to nest boxes and perches. Nonpoultry. Nonpoultry animals, including cows, pigs, sheep, and goats, must have access to organic pasture or range. However, producers may keep them in a feedlot for up to 90 days prior to slaughter as long as the animals have access to fresh air and daylight.
applications and supporting documentation to the national USDA FSIS office in Washington, DC (see Resources). Documentation must show that animals have been raised following organic livestock production guidelines. It should include the following information: • Name of the meat or poultry product and/or the ingredients used in the meat or poultry product • Certifying agency’s name and address • Name and signature of the responsible official at the certifying agency • Date of certification • Copy of the organic production certificate For more information about labeling organic meat, producers can contact the regional USDA FSIS office (see Resources).
Each nonpoultry animal must bear permanent individual identification, an ear tag or mark, to ensure accurate record keeping. Producers may identify poultry by flock. Producers must maintain records for each organically produced animal starting from birth or purchase, and they must save those records for two years after the sale or slaughter of the animal. Records must include the following information: • The purchases and sales of livestock and livestock products including dates, quantities, and weights • A list of all materials used in the on-site production of crops for feed • All purchased feed, including dates, quantities, and sources • All feed supplements used • All medications administered (type, name, and source), including dates and dosages • A copy of the organic production certificate • The slaughter weight of animals and the weight of post-slaughter products • Receipts for all animals and materials sold
Organic Value-Added Products
Organic value-added products are products made from food that has been organically grown and processed without artificially derived preservatives, coloring, flavorings, or other artificial additives. Processing value-added products may involve the use of some nonagricultural ingredients—such as salt, water, leavening agents, pectin, and agar—and some processing aids such as enzymes. In addition to some nonagricultural ingredients, processed foods may contain both organic and non-organic ingredients. The labels of value-added products reflect the percentages of organic ingredients by weight; location and font size of the term organic depend on product composition. Label regulations related to use of the term organic are described below. Another Farming West of the Cascades publication, MAKING VALUE-ADDED PRODUCTS: GETTING STARTED, describes regulations for making value-added products.
If poultry and dairy animals have been raised following organic livestock production guidelines, there are no restrictions on labeling egg and dairy products as organic. At this time, meat for retail sale must bear a label that includes the name of the certifying agency. For example, if the meat is certified organic by WSDA, the label should read “Certified organic by the WSDA Organic Food Program.” The entire statement may appear anywhere on the label, but it must be contiguous and of the same font size, style, and color. The OFP does not issue labels to individual producers but to the USDA-approved facilities where the animals are slaughtered and processed. Meat that is intended to be labeled organic must be slaughtered and processed at a USDA-approved facility. The USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) reviews and approves labels. Producers can obtain applications for label approval from on-site inspectors at USDA-approved facilities. Producers then submit
Foods Composed of 100% Organic Ingredients
The term organic may appear anywhere on the package without restriction. For example, pesto made with all organic ingredients could have a label that reads
Organic Pesto Foods Composed of 95-100% Organic Ingredients
The OFP approves certain non-organic ingredients for use as minor ingredients in processed organic food
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products. These ingredients include, but are not limited to, aluminum-free baking powder, seaweed, yeast, mineral salts, and water. Food products containing approved minor ingredients may use the term organic without restriction.
certification unless they plan to sell organic food at a farmers’ market. All Washington State farmers’ markets require that producers selling organic food are certified. However, even producers exempt from certification must produce organic food in compliance with the WSDA organic crop and livestock production standards. Producers wanting to avoid the effort and expense of obtaining organic certification might consider marketing food as pesticide-free, unsprayed, and grown without pesticides; however; these terms have legal definitions. Food labeled as such must have been produced without any applications of pesticides. In addition, food labeled as pesticide-free must have been actually tested and determined to be free of all pesticide residues.
Foods Composed of 50-95% Organic Ingredients
In foods composed of 50-95% organic ingredients by weight, the term organic may only be used to modify the organic ingredient(s). Organic may appear with the product identity; however, the type size of organic may not be larger than three-quarters the type size of the product identity. For example, pesto made with organic basil and garlic and non-organic nuts and oil could have a label that reads (text size is appropriately scaled):
made with organic basil and garlic
How You Can Apply for Organic Certification
To apply for organic certification, contact the WSDA OFP in January and request an application packet (see Resources). Even if you were certified the previous year, you must renew your certification; the program certifies producers annually. Submit your application with the following materials: • A farm management plan • A farm map • The appropriate fees New applicants can expect to pay two fees: an initial fee of $75 (to help offset the costs of processing a new application) and an annual fee. The annual fee will vary from $165 to more than $2,000, based on the value of your product as estimated by you. The appropriate fees must accompany your application. After you apply for certification, an inspector from the OFP will visit your farm to investigate crop and livestock production practices and test for pesticide residues. Additional unannounced inspections may also occur at the discretion of the OFP inspector.
Foods Composed of Less Than 50% Organic Ingredients
If organically grown ingredients make up less than 50% of the weight of a food product, the term organic can only be used on the ingredients list, not with the product identity.
Who Obtains Organic Certification?
Producers obtain certification to produce specific commodities (organic crops, mushrooms, meat and dairy products, and value-added products) in a specific place and in a specific way. For example, a grower obtains a certificate to grow a certain crop (or crops) on a certain piece of land. All producers who market organic food must obtain organic certification with one exception: producers who sell less than $5,000 (gross) worth of product and sell directly to consumers (e.g., community-supported agriculture and on-farm sales) do not have to obtain
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The following resources can provide you with more information about producing organic food and obtaining organic certification.
Application for Organic Food Processor Certification, AGR-2147. Application calling for food processors to provide a list of ingredient suppliers, product formulation (to be kept confidential), an illustration of the label, and a diagram of processing procedures and facilities. Application Packet for Organic Food Producer Certification. This packet includes the following materials: Application for Organic Certification (AGR2115), Farm Management Plan (AGR-2121), Map Order form, Organic Crop Production Standards, Pesticide Drift Letter, Record Keeping Worksheets, Site Information (AGR-2129). Application Packet for Organic Livestock Producer Certification. This packet includes the following materials: Animal Production Standards for Organic Meat and Dairy Products, Application for Organic Certification (AGR-2115), Livestock Production Management Plan (AGR-2156), Map Order Form, Organic Crop Production Standards, Pesticide Drift Letter, Record Keeping Worksheets, Site Information (AGR-2129). Approved Brand Name Materials List for Organic Production. List of materials that have been reviewed and approved for organic production in Washington State; also available on the web from the WSDA Organic Food Program website. Organic Certification Agencies Reviewed and Recognized by the WSDA Organic Food Program. A review of national and international organic certification agents and recognition of agents that comply with Washington State standards. Organic Crop Production Standards, Chapter 16154, Washington Administrative Code. Guidelines to organic crop production in Washington State. Organic Food Handler Standards, Chapter 16-164, Washington Administrative Code. Guidelines for handlers of organic food products, including definitions and information on allowable materials and practices, record keeping requirements, inspections, sampling, and fees. Organic Food Processor Standards, Chapter 16-158, Washington Administrative Code. Guidelines for processors of organic food products, including definitions and information on processing standards, labeling, record keeping, additives, sampling, and fees. continued
Washington State Department of Agriculture Organic Food Program Food Safety & Animal Health Division P.O. Box 42560 Olympia, WA 98504-2560 Phone: (360) 902-1877 Fax: (360) 902-2087 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org URL: http://www.wa.gov/agr/fsah/organic/ofp.htm WSDA Pesticide Management Division P.O. Box 42589 Olympia, WA 98504-2589 Phone: (360)-902-2030 Fax: (360) 902-2093 United States Department of Agricultural (USDA) Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) Regional Inspections Operation 530 Center St NE Mezzanine Salem, OR 97301 Phone: (503) 399-5831 or 1-800-547-8732 Fax: (503) 399-5636 Labeling and Additives Policy Division Room 616C, Cotton Annex Washington, D.C. 20250 Phone: (202) 205-0279
Materials Available from the WSDA Organic Food Program
Animal Production Standards for Organic Meat and Dairy Products, Chapter 16-162, Washington Administrative Code. Guidelines for organic animal production in Washington State. Application for Organic Food Handler Certification, AGR-2149. Application calling for food handlers seeking organic certification to provide a description of business activities (i.e., packer, distributor, etc.), a list of ingredient suppliers, an illustration of the label, and a diagram of the handling facility.
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Organic Food Products, Chapter 15.86, Title 15, Revised Code of Washington: Agriculture and Marketing. State code describing basic organic food production standards and giving WSDA authority to certify organic food, producers, processors, and handlers. Organic Food Program Brochure. An overview of the mission of the WSDA OFP and a list of the food industry segments, from production through marketing, that Washington State regulates. Organic Mushroom Production Standards. A twopage description of organic mushroom production, including materials and methods, facilities and equipment, pest control, and sampling standards. Organic Producer and Transition to Organic Producer Certification, Chapter 16-156, Washington Administrative Code. Guidelines for organic certification applicants, including information on application procedures, inspection and sampling parameters, criteria for granting certification, criteria for revoking or denying certification, and fees. Registration of Materials for Organic Food Production, Chapter 16-160, Washington Administrative Code. Guidelines and requirements of materials to be reviewed for use in organic production and processing. Washington State Certified Organic Producers, Processors, and Handlers. A list of producers certified by Washington State’s OFP, divided by county and by crop. Also includes processors and handlers by type of product. Wild Harvested Organic Plant Standards. A one-page description of Washington State certification standards for wild harvested plants. Includes definitions and information on standards, sampling, and application procedures.
About the Authors
Carol A. Miles, Ph.D., is the Agricultural Systems Extension Agent, WSU Cooperative Extension, Lewis County. She specializes in on-farm research of vegetable and alternative crop production systems in western Washington. Her other areas of interest include small farms, organic production, and alternative pest control. Tamera K. Flores is an assistant with the Agricultural Systems Program, WSU Cooperative Extension, Lewis County, and a student at Evergreen State College. She specializes in researching sustainable agriculture topics and educating the public about these issues. Miles McEvoy is the Organic Food Program Manager for the Washington State Department of Agriculture. For the last twelve years, he has inspected and certified organic farms and participated in the development of national organic standards.
King County Agriculture Commission
The series Farming West of the Cascades is a project of the WSU Food and Farm Connections Team. The Food and Farm Connections Team is a group of Cooperative Extension faculty and staff seeking to promote and enhance sustainable, community-based food and fiber systems through research, education, and partnerships. The Team is supported by the WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR). For more information about the Team or CSANR, visit our website at <http://foodfarm.wsu.edu>, or call (253) 445-4514. Funding for this project was provided by WSU Cooperative Extension and the King County Agriculture Commission. You may order copies of this and other publications from the WSU Bulletin office, 1-800-723-1763, or online ‹http://caheinfo.wsu.edu› Issued by Washington State University Cooperative Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in furtherance of the Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Cooperative Extension programs and policies are consistent with federal and state laws and regulations on nondiscrimination regarding race, sex, religion, age, color, creed, national or ethnic origin; physical, mental or sensory disability; marital status, sexual orientation, and status as a Vietnam-era or disabled veteran. Evidence of noncompliance may be reported through your local Cooperative Extension office. Trade names have been used to simplify information; no endorsement is intended. Published December 1999. B. Subject code 262. EB1888
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