Why does the farm have to become certified?
The labelling and marketing of organic food and feed products is controlled by Retained Regulation (EC) No. 834/2007, (EC) No. 889/2008, (EC) No. 1235/2008 and Organic Products Regulation 2009.
Any person or organisation intending to produce or process organic products must be subject to an inspection and certification procedure by an approved Control Body. Anyone contravening these Regulations could be subject to prosecution by Trading Standards.
What categories of production or processing need to be certified?
The following operations must be subject to the inspection and certification process:
- Farm production including arable and horticultural crops and livestock producing food intended for human consumption;
- Processing involving food preparation, prepacking and storage. This includes on-farm processing such as dairy products, butchers shops, etc.;
- Organic products imported from countries outside the European Union, known as third countries;
- Animal feeds production;
- The re-labelling of products at any stage of the distribution chain.
Who or what has to be certified?
Each production unit has to be registered and inspected. The area of land to be converted is speci ed down to the individual elds. Only products from certified elds may be marketed as organic. Each production enterprise, such as cereals, dairy cattle and milk, vegetables etc. must be licensed and only products from those enterprises may be marketed as organic. A named individual has to be responsible for the management of the organic unit.
Where the processing of products takes place on the farm, these must be included in the inspection and certification process. Where the farm's products are stored or processed at other premises, the premises used must also be inspected. This can include the drying or storage of organic cereals at another farm or grain store and the cold storage and washing of potatoes off site.
How do I convert my farm?
At present, it is not necessary for the whole farm to be converted to organic production, only an area sufficiently large to achieve a sustainable organic unit.
During the conversion process, only those materials and practices permitted in the standards may be used. An organic system will operate successfully by using those materials and practices that are permitted. The majority of soluble fertilisers and synthetic pesticides are not permitted.
Where fertilisers have been extensively used in the past, their cessation is likely to result in a drop in yield until the organic system starts to take effect. This has to be allowed for and, to spread the loss of yield or income, it may be advisable to convert the farm in stages rather than all at once.
How is land converted?
The conversion period is normally 2 years (or 3 years for perennial crops other than grassland) but this can be reduced by up to 4 months (giving a 20 or 32 month conversion period) if records and a visual inspection prove that there has been no use of prohibited inputs during the 4 month period prior to the date of application.
Conversion can be done in stages or the whole farm can be converted at the same time. Many farms, particularly mixed farms have successfully converted the whole farm in one go. Alternatively, staged conversion over a period of perhaps three or four years has the advantage of providing time to learn new techniques, nding out which system suits the farm best and spreading risks by testing the market slowly.
How are livestock converted?
Livestock can either be converted at the same time as the land, known as simultaneous conversion (sim-con) or can start organic management once the land has completed its conversion, known as sequential conversion.
For livestock in sim-con, cattle born 12 weeks after the start of conversion and lambs born to ewes tupped on in-conversion land can be traded as organic after the land has completed conversion.
For livestock kept on land in sequential conversion the conversion periods as detailed below apply;
- Dairy cattle must be managed to the organic standards for 6 months before the milk can be sold as organic. The milk can not be sold as organic before the land achieves organic status;
- Beef cattle must be managed to the standards for 12 weeks once the land completes conversion, calves born after this period will have organic status;
- Ewes and Sows must be tupped/mated on organic land for their offspring to have organic status;
- Flocks of laying birds on farm before the land became organic must be managed to the standards for 6 weeks from the day the land became organic before the eggs have organic status;
- Table birds introduced at less than 3 days old onto an organic unit must undergo 10 weeks of organic management before qualifying as organic.
Livestock cannot be sold as ‘in-conversion’ but can be sold as in ‘simultaneous conversion’ when approved to do so by the certification office.
How do I sell my crops during the conversion period?
• During the first 12 months of the conversion period, all crops must be sold as non-organic;
• Crops harvested after the first 12 months of the conversion period may be marketed under the label - ‘Produced under conversion to organic farming’.
There is a strong market for conversion cereals and legumes for stock feed and a developing market for conversion fruit and vegetables. Farm shops can also sell the produce of the farm under this label.
When are my crops organic?
• Crops that were sown or planted into land that has achieved organic status can be sold as organic;
• Grazing and forage crops harvested after the land becomes organic can be sold as organic;
• Perennial crops can be sold as organic after the plant has been through 36 months (or 32 months if the conversion period has been reduced) of conversion.
We’re here to help
Your named Certification Officer will be your personal point of contact for any certification and inspection matters which means you can get hold of them when you need them and they will provide you with practical, experienced guidance for your business.
You are our priority
OF&G works hard to ensure that its voice is heard on behalf of you, our licensees. We stay in touch with the decision-makers at the heart of the sector; we also sit on a number of key national committees, Government and EU groups making sure that your business is prioritised.
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We work in partnership with Acoura, independent inspection specialists which means you have the reassurance of working with experts at all stages of the certification process. OF&G’s primary focus is delivering practical and timely support for your business at a fair and transparent fee.