The North Dakota Department of Agriculture provides education and information services on organic agriculture.

Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring has appointed a 15-member Organic Advisory Board that gives advice on organic issues, provides promotional materials, and participates in promotional activities to enhance the industry.

The department also maintains a database of North Dakota organic producers and processors. There is also an organic farm location map on the website that provides information to chemical spray applicators to assist them from spraying on organic crop land.

The Department manages the USDA organic cost share program. Organic producers can receive up to 75 percent of their certification costs, not to exceed $750, each year as reimbursement for certifying their operation.

What is Organic?

"Organic agriculture as "an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity, which is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony." USDA National Organic Standards Board definition

Organic food has been grown by working with nature rather than against it, by recycling natural materials to maintain soil fertility and encouraging natural methods of pest and disease control rather than relying on chemical pesticides and fungicides. Organic can also mean caring for the earth and caring for each other with respectful relationships.

When you buy something with the word "organic" on it you can be confident that it was produced without using: 

  • syntheticly produced pesticides
  • antibiotics, growth hormones, or synthetic parasite controls
  • fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge
  • bioengineering
  • ionizing radiation

Organic farming emphasizes the use of: 

  • renewable resources
  • diverse crops and crop rotations
  • humane animal husbandry, access to the outdoors, adequate space
  • the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations

What is Certified Organic?

In 1990, Congress passed the Organic Food Production Act, a piece of comprehensive legislation that established National Standards for organic production and handling. This legislation also established the National Organic Program (NOP) to enforce and administer the standards.

Before a product can be labeled "organic," a government-approved certifier annually inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Organic farmers all follow a detailed farm plan designed to meet organic certification standards.

Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too. These companies' facilities are also inspected and certified each year to ensure the organic standards are met.

If you have more questions about what organic means, the USDA National Organic Program website has a great one page explanation. Click this link to visit it! http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/Consumers/brochure.html

It should be noted that the terms "natural" and "organic" are not interchangeable. The USDA defines "natural" as a product containing no artificial ingredients or added color and is only minimally processed.

Organic Consumers

What the Organic Seal means

The USDA Organic seal means that food was grown and processed according to the standards established in 2002 under the National Organic Program (NOP). Organic growing and processing practices are verified by USDA approved third-party certifiers. In order for any product to carry the USDA seal or to be called “organic. The USDA rules allows for four categories of organic labels:

  • 100% Organic: May display USDA Organic Seal
  • Organic: At least 95% of content is organic by weight (excluding water and salt). May display USDA Organic Seal.
  • Made With Organic: At least 70% of content is organic and the front product panel may display the phrase "Made with Organic" followed by up to three specific ingredients. May not display USDA Organic seal.
  • Less than 70% of content is organic and may list only those ingredients that are organic on the ingredient panel with no mention of organic on the main panel. May not display USDA Organic seal.

Farmers who gross less than $5,000 from organic products and sell directly to consumers or retailers are exempt from inspection and certification requirements. They must, however, comply with practices approved by the NOP. Those farmers may call their product organic, but they can't use the USDA seal. Those farmers when asked have to provide documentation they are following the NOP guidelines.

Is Organic Farming for me?

Making any changes in your farming practices requires careful thought, planning and study. Organic certification requires that each farm and processing facility have in place a system of tracking where each crop was grown, what practices were used, where and when the product was sold. In addition each farm must have a written farm plan. Exactly what paperwork is required may vary with each certifier. Contact the certifier you or your buyer chooses for more information.

Certifying agencies

There are several basic steps in the certification process:

  • Call a USDA accredited certifier and receive application material.
  • Review material and complete application,
  • Certification proposal based on application and supporting documentation is provided that outlines the requirements of certification, a time line and a cost estimate approval and payment.
  • On-site inspection is done annually during the growing season. The inspector assigned to your farm or processing facility will verify all organic related paperwork and organic practices that are outlined in your farm plan are being followed and documented (ex: rotation practices, pest management, erosion and segregation).
  • A committee reviews all inspection materials. If everything is in compliance with the agency's policies and standards, and approval is given.
  • The client is then moved into the final certification process, which may include licensing and certificates.

Each certifying agency may have variations on these steps or additional steps in the process. Be aware of the fact that all certifiers have deadlines that need to be met. Contact the certifier of your choice for his/her information and deadlines. For your convenience here is a list of certifiers offering services in North Dakota.
 

Global Organic Alliance, Inc.
PO Box 530
Bellefontaine OH 43311
Phone: (937) 593-1232
Fax: (937) 593-9507 
International Certification Services, Inc. (ICS)
301 5th Ave. SE
Medina ND 58467
Phone: (701) 486-3578
Fax: (701) 486-3580
Minnesota Crop Improvement Association (MCIA)
1900 Hendon Ave
St. Paul, MN 55108
Phone: 612-625-7766/1-800-510-6242
Fax: 612-625-3748
Montana Certified Organic
Montana Department of Agriculture

P.O. Box 200201
Helena, MT 59620-0201
Phone: 406-444-3144
Oregon Tilth
260SW Madison Ave., Suite 106
Corvallis, OR 97333
Phone: 503-378-0690
Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA)
1340 North Cotner Boulevard
Lincoln NE 68505-1838
Phone: (402) 477-2323
Fax (402) 477-4325
Quality Assurance International (QAI)
9191 Towne Centre Drive, Suite 200
San Diego CA 92122
Phone: (858) 792-3531
Fax: (858) 792-8665
Stellar Certification Services
(see Demeter certification)

P.O. Box 1390
Philomath, OR 97370
Contact: Jim Fullmer
Phone: 541-929-7148
Fax: 541-929-4387
E-mail: demeter@peak.org
 

Commodity prices organic & conventional

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service captures prices for organic and conventional products on a bi-weekly basis. The USDA can give you up to date information on the price premiums one can expect to get when selling organic products. Conventional prices can be found here.

Most organic products are purchased under contract, where the buyer and seller agree in advance on the price and delivery terms of the product being purchased. Forward contracts can eliminate the uncertainty of a shifting market prices. A forward contract can also be seen as a form of insurance, locking in a delivery price for the product grown or raised. Most forward contracts have to be secured before the growing season starts. Careful planning and extra time may be needed by the farmers to seek out and secure a contract, this extra time needs to be factored into the overall marketing plan for the farm. Most analysts would advise against contracting 100 percent of your harvest.

North Dakota State law requires that grain elevators, grain buyers, and hay buyers be licensed and bonded. The North Dakota Public Service Commission’s Licensing Division oversees the licensing and bonding of all grain elevators, facility-based grain buyers, roving grain buyers, and hay buyers. Regulation of these entities is intended to protect the people who sell grain to, or store grain in, the warehouses and is enforced within a framework that minimizes negative economic impacts on related industries and individual entities.

Crop insurance

The USDA RMA (Risk Management Agency) continues to broaden the scope of crop insurance options for certified organic products. To learn more about those options, click here.

I'm a Certified Organic Farmer or Rancher

Buyers of organic grains

To find a buyer for organic products go to the online directory and search buyers/processors.

Commodity prices organic & conventional

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service captures prices for organic products on a bi-weekly basis. This website can give you up to date information on the price premiums one can expect to get when selling organic products. Conventional prices can be found here.

Crop insurance

The USDA RMA (Risk Management Agency) continues to broaden the scope of crop insurance options for certified organic products. To learn more about those options visit: http://www.rma.usda.gov/news/currentissues/organics/

How to find Certified Organic Seed?

Many seed companies offer a line of certified organic seeds make sure you work with your seed supplier and your certifier to make sure you are purchasing certified organic seed for your certified organic operation. Did you know you can purchase non-certified organic seed, however in most cases you need to prove to your certifier that the specific seed you are wanting to purchase there is no certified organic option on the market for purchase. In this instance work with your certifier to follow the correct procedures to document the need to purchase non-organic certified seed. 

Organizations

Farmers learn best from other farmers, it is important to get to know other farmers who are transitioning or are already certified organic to help you. Belonging to a farm organization is a great way to network with other farmers. Two organizations that can provide assistance to transitioning farmers in North Dakota are FARRMS (The Foundation for Agriculture and Rural Resource Management and Sustainability) and NPSAS (Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society)

Regulations and standards 

For up to date information, visit the National Organic Program.

Technical contact information

If you have specific question about certified organic production you can contact Jamie Good jgood@nd.gov or 701-328-2659. He can put you in contact with someone who can answer your questions.

USDA Organic Cost Share Program

The NDDA along with USDA FSA office across the state can assist certified organic producers in the form of a cost share to reimburse for certain costs associated with being certified organic. Go to (Link to USDA Cost Share Program pge) to learn how to apply for reimbursement.

Weed control and crop rotation

Managing weeds in an organic system requires intimate knowledge of those weeds.

  • Learn to identify your weeds, their seeds, and growth habits. Knowing those things arms you with the information you need to design your tillage, cropping, grazing, manure application, fertility and rotation strategies for weed control.
  • Know the noxious, prohibited weeds in your area. Communicate with your county weed board if you have a problem with these on your property. Ask if there are cost-share funds available for non-chemical control of noxious weeds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does my farm have to be 100 percent organic?

No, There are many farmers in our state that have farms where they raise both certified organic crops/livestock and conventional crops/livestock. These farmers have to have very specific protocols in place to ensure their certified organic production is separated. These protocols and processes will be discussed and documented with your certifier to manage both sides of your operation

How do I get certified?

The transition process to certified organic production can take up to three years. The first three things you are going to want to do is:

  1. Identify Markets
  2. Select a certifying agency
  3. Set up a record keeping system

How to find Certified Organic Seed?

Once you have made the decision to transition all or part of your farm to certified organic production you will need to purchase certified organic seed. This means that the seeds you purchase have to also bear the USDA Certified Organic Seal. Many seed companies offer a line of certified organic seeds make sure you work with your seed supplier and your certifier to make sure you are purchasing certified organic seed for your certified organic operation. As a farmer can you purchase non-certified organic seed? The answer is yes, however in most cases you need to prove to your certifier that the specific seed you are wanting to purchase there is no certified organic option on the market for purchase. In this instance work with your certifier to follow the correct procedures to document the need to purchase non-organic certified seed.

    Are there organic organizations?

    Farmers learn best from other farmers, it is important to get to know other farmers who are transitioning or are already certified organic to help you. Belonging to a farm organization is a great way to network with other farmers. Two organizations that can provide assistance to transitioning farmers in North Dakota are FARRMS (The Foundation for Agriculture and Rural Resource Management and Sustainability) and NPSAS (Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society)

    What technical contact information is there?

    NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) has many resources available to help producers write a conservation plan for their farm. To learn more about NRCS and their programs, visit their website. If you have specific question about transitioning to certified organic production you can contact Jamie Good jgood@nd.gov or 701-328-2659. He can put you in contact with someone who can answer your questions.

    Who purchases organic products?

    Most certified organic products are purchased under contract. To find a buyer for organic products, go to the online directory and search buyers/processors.

     

    Organics Contacts

    Jamie Good

    Local Foods Specialist
    701-328-2659 701-226-7337 jgood@nd.gov