The USDA Moves to Withdraw the Animal Welfare Rule

After years of work by Organic stakeholders, the National Organic Standards Board, and the National Organic Program in developing and publishing the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) rule—otherwise known as the “Animal Welfare Rule”— the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is now proposing to withdraw it. The AMS’s proposal, which was published on December 18, 2017, can be read here.

In short, the AMS now believes it does not have the authority under the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) to implement the OLPP rule and that, even if it did the costs of implementation outweigh the benefits.

CFSA submitted comments in response to the AMS’s proposal to withdraw the rule.

We strongly disagree with the AMS’s interpretation of OFPA. Not only are Organic animal welfare standards authorized by OFPA, they are also important to maintaining consumer trust in the integrity of the Organic label.

Although the AMS’s proposal to withdraw the OLPP rule hasn’t yet been finalized, it’s very unlikely that the AMS will reverse course. Watch this space for more updates once the AMS moves forward.

Want more information on how all of this came to be? CFSA’s policy team has a nifty timeline if you want to see the play-by-play.

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The Road to Organic Certification

The Road to Organic Certification

Are you interested in learning more about the USDA NOP organic certification process? If so, take a walk on the Road to Organic Certification and watch how Candice Howard successfully certifies her sustainable farm and how Bruce Baxter successfully transitions his farm to certified organic.

Organic Certification FAQs

These are three of the most common questions we hear from farmers about Organic Certification.


1. Worried that certification will be too complicated to navigate?
CFSA offers FREE consulting to farmers seeking USDA Organic Certification. This is open to farm operations that are serious about taking the next steps to apply whether you raise row crops, produce, livestock, medicinal herbs or other agricultural products.


Just starting or in the middle of your three-year transition to organic?  Check out our conservation planning work and consulting opportunities.  The resulting CAP plan can inform your Organic Farm Plan for Certification.


Not ready to commit just yet? 
Take the first step by asking questions now!  Our Farm Services team is a valuable resource in this process. Feel free to touch base with us with specific questions regarding your efforts to transition part or all of your farming operation to organic.  Email us at mark@ or 919-542-2402.


2. Not sure if certification is in your farm’s budget?
The Organic Certification Cost Share Program has been reinstated with the passing of the farm bill, effectively lowering the cost of certification.


Producers can be reimbursed for 75% of the costs associated with USDA Organic Certification up to $750 with submission of the appropriate documentation to your state’s Department of Agriculture. Remember that this is a reimbursement-based program, so you must first successfully become certified to qualify. To receive reimbursement, you need to submit an application, a current W-9 form, copies of all receipts showing costs incurred from certification, and your organic certificate from a USDA accredited certifying agency.


3. So, with cost share assistance, what would it REALLY cost for a first-time applicant for USDA Organic Certification?

Three example scenarios to give you an idea…


1) To certify 10 acres or less for one year in SC with Clemson’s Organic Certification Program (Currently, all certified organic farmers in SC use Clemson.)

New applicant flat fee: $750

After reimbursement, the farmer’s cost is only $187.50.


2) To certify a larger, more complex operation, the cost of initial certification may be more than $1000. Let’s say your certification cost is $1200. The cost share program covers up to $750 of this cost, so after reimbursement, the farmer’s cost is $450.


3) If you gross less than $5k annually from the sale of crops, but decide to get certified despite the $5K/yr exemption (for example, your products are bulked with other organic products), and you are in SC, Clemson will certify your operation at a flat rate of $200/yr. After reimbursement, the farmer’s cost is only $50.


Take a look at Clemson’s Organic Certification Program fee schedule.  All necessary forms and information for their program can be found at:


NC farmers have options in choosing a certifier.  We’ve done the research for you!  You can easily compare certifier fee structures using this updated reference sheet in our Organic Transition Handbook.


Expert Tip: Check out our map to see which certifiers farms near you use.  If you decide that using the same certifier is best for your operation, you may be able to coordinate your inspections to share the cost of inspector travel expenses.

On-farm Organic Consulting


As an extension of our Conservation Activity Plan (CAP) consulting, CFSA staff are available to provide on-farm consulting to farmers about opportunities to take advantage of cost share assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Organic Initiative.

The consultation involves an on-farm visit, a tour of the farm to assess natural resource concerns that can be addressed by NRCS conservation practices and a discussion of how the producer can access cost share funding to implement the identified practices on his or her farm. The farm visit normally takes about two hours and also provides an opportunity for discussion of organic production concerns on the farm. A written report will be made available to the producer outlining recommended conservation practices.

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Organic Certification Consulting


Are you intimidated by the regulations and paperwork necessary for USDA Organic Certification?

CFSA offers consulting services and resources to help farmers transitioning to certified organic.

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