Natural Foods Merchandiser

Expedited organic certification saves time, not money

Businesses whose organic transition has moved faster than their ability to do paperwork will be able to speed through certification under a program announced Jan. 29 by California Certified Organic Farmers.

CCOF's Expedited Organic Certification Program doesn't take any shortcuts or compromise the U.S. Department of Agriculture's standards, said Viella Shipley, CCOF's marketing director, it just adds speed. Instead of the regular certification method's 12-week time frame, an expedited certification can be completed in as quickly as one week.

For an extra charge, an expedited application moves to the top of the list and is immediately assigned to an inspector, who must submit his or her report to CCOF within 48 hours of final inspection.

Documents move by fax, e-mail or overnight mail, and CCOF guarantees that internal review and processing will be finished within three days.

Fast-tracking adds $750 to the cost for new certification or additional facilities on existing certifications, or $400 for new acreage at existing operations.

"It's for somebody who already has their ducks in a row," Shipley said. "By no means does it guarantee you're going to get certified, and we don't guarantee you'll get certified by a certain date."

The actual process of certification does not change, she said. Success still depends on passing inspection, demonstrating compliance on site, and submitting a complete, high-quality application.

But the new program provides an accelerated option for organizations that have asked to cut in line when they don't have 12 weeks before harvest or launch to finish certification.

"People got busy with other things," Shipley said, "and finally realized that they couldn't get everything done before the deadline. It's a value-added service for people who are unorganized." Most organic producers will want to plan appropriately, go through the regular process and not spend the extra money, she predicted.

Based in Santa Cruz, Calif., CCOF is one of the oldest and largest organic certifiers in North America, with more than 1,500 farmers, processors, handlers, retailers and private labelers as clients. Shipley said she didn't know of any other certifiers offering expedited approval.

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