Frequently asked questions

What is the $5,000 exemption?

Per section 205.101 of the National Organic Standards, producers whose gross annual income from organic sales is $5000 or less are exempt from certification. However, exempt producers must still comply with all applicable organic production and handling requirements.  Products from exempt operations may not be used in organic processed products produced by an organic handling operation.

What is the USDA’s role?

The USDA administers the National Organic Program (NOP) and the National Organic Program Standards. The NOP accredits certifying agencies, such as MCS, thereby ensuring that certifiers are following the National Organic Standard.

What is the role of MOFGA Certification Services, LLC (MCS)?

MCS evaluates producers, processors, and handlers to determine whether they conform to the organic standards. Those who conform are certified and allowed to use a logo, product statement, or certificate to document their products as certified organic.

How is MOFGA Certification Services different from MOFGA?

MCS is a subsidiary of MOFGA. MCS annually reviews farm and food processor practices to ensure that food labeled as “certified organic” meets nationally accepted organic standards. MOFGA is a farming advocacy organization that works to promote a local, organic and sustainable food system.  MOFGA also has staff in its Ag Services Department that can provide technical support and other types of consulting services to organic producers.

What are the benefits of being certified with MOFGA Certification Services?

The MOFGA Certification logo is trusted by consumers and will benefit the marketing of your organic products. In addition we offer further benefits:

  • 25% ad discount in the MOFGA newspaper and Organic Maine Directory
  • $30 discount on booth fees for the Common Ground Fair farmers market
  • Free listing and automatic updates in MOFGA on-line and print directories
  • Complimentary copy of the MOFGA quarterly newspaper
  • Discounts on MOFGA educational events
  • Free technical and marketing advice from MOFGA specialists
  • Networking opportunities at events and workshops

Is MCS the only certification option in Maine?

No. You must use a certifier that is USDA accredited. A list of accredited certifiers can be found on the USDA NOP website www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop.

What if my farm or processing facility is not in Maine, can I still be certified by MCS?

MCS certifies in Maine, however there are rare situations where we will provide certification services outside of the state. An additional fee may apply. Please contact the office for more information. 

How long does it take to get certified?

The process may take several weeks to several months, depending on the complexity of the operation and completeness of the application.  An inspection must take place during production, which means that for seasonal producers there are times of the year when an inspection is not feasible.  If questions or compliance issues are identified at any point in the process, these must be addressed.  An incomplete application (including fees) must be completed before certification can be granted.  Because of these factors, it is not possible to guarantee certification within a certain time frame, but our advice is to plan ahead and submit a complete application several months before you anticipate needing certification.

What kind of records do I have to keep?

Good record keeping is important for certification. Crop producers should keep the following records:

  • Seed/seedling/perennials purchase records
  • Field activity records (amendments, pesticides, planting dates, manure applications, crop rotation, field histories, etc.)
  • Compost production records
  • Clean out log for equipment used on non-certified land
  • Receipts and labels for purchased inputs
  • Harvest and sales records (depend on scale and complexity of farm)

Please contact MCS if you would like information on records for livestock and processing operations. All records must be available at the time of inspection and saved for five years. Certified producers are required to keep MCS up to date about changes to their organic system plan.

What about inspections conducted by MCS?

Once an updated organic system plan or application has been reviewed, an inspector will be assigned. Crop producers are inspected during the growing season. The inspector will contact you to set up a time. Inspectors verify organic farming practices and check all records. The inspector writes a report on which certification decisions are based. 

How do I prepare for an inspection?

  • Review the MCS guidance documents relevant for your operation
  • Review your certification paperwork
  • Gather records that will be needed for the inspection
  • An authorized person with knowledge of the operation must be present

Are there resources available to help me transition to organic?  

Through the USDA NRCS you can sign up for a Conservation Plan Supporting Organic Transition. Someone will help you with certification paperwork and understanding the NOP rule.  Visit your local NRCS office for more information.