Federal legislation requires certification of agricultural products that are labeled as organic. Producers whose gross sales of organic products are under $5,000 must know and meet the USDA/National Organic Program Regulations (https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic), but are not required to seek certification. These small scale producers are encouraged to get certified for marketing benefits. Farms selling more than $5,000 of products labeled as organic must be certified by a certifier that is accredited by the USDA National Organic Program. See below for a list of certifying organizations in New England currently accredited by USDA.
National Organic Standards
Organic agriculture is based on the use of practices and inputs that enhance the physical, biological and chemical aspects of the soil and its ability to sustain crop and animal production in an environmentally safe manner. Natural sources of crop nutrients and cultural practices that build or maintain fertility are required by the National Organic Standards. Organic agriculture relies on cultural practices as much as possible for pest management, but allows natural based pesticides when needed. In general, the use of synthetic substances for pest management is prohibited, although some synthetic materials are allowed and these are noted in Section 205.601 of the USDA National Organic Program Standards.
This Guide includes information on many organic practices and materials approved by the National Organic Program. See information on sources for crop nutrients in the section Guidelines For Organic Fertility Management. Compost use is discussed in the section Fertilizers and Soil Amendments. Approved methods of managing weeds, insects and diseases are noted in the Pest Management section. Organically accepted practices are also included in the specific crop chapters.
Organic Material Review
The grower is responsible for determining whether materials are allowed under organic standards. Sometimes this may be a challenge because some materials labeled as organic by the manufacturer may not actually meet the standards of the National Organic Program or by a third-party organic review organization. Third party review organizations include the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) and California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), all of which are recognized by the USDA National Organic Program as organic material review organizations, though CDFA only reviews fertility inputs. These organizations publish lists of products suitable for certified organic production. These products are generally allowed, but some are regulated and subject to restrictions and may only be allowed for certain production scopes. It is the responsibility of the grower to know the restrictions on, and scope specification of, product use. In some cases, a third party review organization may note that certain formulations of a product are permitted and others are not. The list of substances approved are subject to change. For the most up-to-date lists, visit their web sites at: OMRI, WSDA and/or CDFA. If using a product not on one of these lists, be sure to check with your certifier in advance to be certain that the materials and practices you plan to use are approved by your certifier, and that you understand any restrictions on use. In some cases, application of a material that is not approved for use in organic production could result in land needing to be re-transitioned for a three year period.
When mentioned in tables or in crop chapters, this Guide designates approved organic materials with a superscript OG (OG), which means they were "OMRI listed" as of June 2022, when the materials were reviewed.
Accredited Organic Certifiers in New England
The following is a list of accredited organic certifiers in New England. Note that some certifiers may limit the scope of the certification they offer, for example, some certify crops but not livestock, and some may certify farms only within a certain geographic area.
New Hampshire Department of Agriculture
Division of Regulatory Services
25 Capitol St. P.O. Box 2042
Concord, NH 03302-2042
DEM Div. of Agriculture
235 Promenade St.
Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-2781 x2774516