Use some or all of the following questions to evaluate the certifier’s suitability to your own business and philosophical needs:
- What experience do they have with your particular crop, market, livestock type, or farm size?
- Do they certify to the international standards that will allow you to export to your country of choice?
- When is someone available by phone to answer questions about certification or the Standards? What is the turnaround time on returning phone calls?
- Do they provide record keeping forms and templates? Paper or electronic?
- What kind of support do they offer? For instance, some certifiers have a club structure that offers peer support and educational opportunities.
- Does the certifier have its own brand name directory (useful for determining whether your inputs and products comply with the PSL)?
- What is the fee structure? Annual fees can be a flat rate or based on the size of your operation or gross income; ask also if there are additional fees for inspection or for dealing with noncompliance issues.
These questions, together with questions of your own, should give you a good idea of whether the certifier:
- Can provide direction and clarification on regulatory questions and on the Standards
- Has a fee structure that is realistic, sustainable and fair
- Is knowledgeable about crops, conditions, and markets
- Has a philosophy and mission consistent with helping producers be organic and sustainable
You should also feel good about the relationship you have with your certifier; how well do you communicate with each other? Talk to other farmers to find out what their experiences have been and get their recommendations.
For more information about becoming certified and record keeping, order a copy of COG’s Record Keeping for Organic Growers book.