Canada Organic Farming Certification - Requirements
Organic certification by QAI and CCOF involve quite similar processes of applying, review of the application by a certified specialist, on-site inspection, review of data provided in the form alongside the inspection report, feedback to the applicant in case of missing information or need for clarification, certification, and annual re-inspection of all on-site operations. For QAI, the certification process takes about 8-10 weeks after QAI receives all data required for review as well as payment, while for CCOF, it typically takes 6-10 weeks or less for special cases.
We first performed an exhaustive search through the websites of QAI and CCOF to find all the requested information. However, we found that there's limited public information available to address the request due to the very specific nature of the research criteria. We switched gears and consulted the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to find more organizations that can legally certify farms/crops as organic to identify steps/requirements. Here, we were able to get a compiled list of certification bodies accredited by the CFIA. However, consulting each organization on the list also did not yield the requested information such as what a non-organic farm would have to do/change to meet the requirement/complete the step, whether there are any differences if the farm in question is a rice farm and any associated costs that may be necessary for each step/requirement. At this point, we adopted the following strategies to look for requested info.
We began by visiting the organic certification pages, overviews, guidelines, steps, process and requirements on the website of each organization accredited by CFIA that provides organic certification such as QAI, CCOF, Ecocert Canada, FVOPA, BCARA, CSI, among others. However, we are not able to find any sufficient data or specific examples to address the requested information. What we found were the broad steps/process/requirements that need to be taken to be certified organic (we have included these in our findings below). There was no case-to-case basis, steps, or guidelines for each type of produce available in any of the organizations' websites we scanned. We also checked each organization's FAQ to see if the requested info had already been asked and answered by the organizations but to no avail. What we were able to find via this approach was how long it takes to be certified organic and some associated costs, as well as the cost of organic certification for two organizations — QAI and CCOF.
Next, we scanned through each organization's publicly available case studies and white papers hoping to find a breakdown of what a non-organic farm would have to do to be marked as “certified organic” in Canada, including if there are differences if the farm in question is a rice farm and any associated costs. This approach was unsuccessful as most of the available case studies and white papers were not related to the requested information but focused on topics like usage and documentation of non-organic ingredients in organic products.
We then opted to do a press search to look for any interviews and news covering the requested topic via external sources such as Forbes, Globe Newswire, organic certifications organizations/associations like Organic Consumers Association, and some parent organizations of the certification bodies accredited by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency like NSF International, the parent body of QAI. However, this strategy also did not yield useful information. What we found were some general steps and standards to have organic certifications, guidelines or best practices for becoming a certified organic producer, some company news for organizations like QAI and other info that are irrelevant to the request.
Most of the organizations ask applicants to apply via their online application forms to properly assess the specific questions because requirements, steps, processes, and types of certification may vary depending on the type of produce. Also, QAI has a list of organic industry consultants on its website; we assume that they are suggesting that applicant should first consult a consultant to get appropriate responses to their specific questions on how to acquire their organic certification by industry and locations.
FIVE STEPS AND PROCESSES TO GET THE ORGANIC FARMING CERTIFICATION OF QUALITY ASSURANCE INTERNATIONAL (QAI)
1. APPLICATION: The process begins by completing the application forms and submitting associated documents. QAI uses this to understand the products, organic practices, and operation scope of the applicant.
2. INSPECTION: The next step involves QAI's verification of the information provided in the application along with an on-site inspection to confirm that the applicant's practices are in line with organic regulations. Following certification, QAI would require annual on-site inspections.
3. REVIEW: The inspection report is then evaluated by a QAI technical reviewer who issues non-compliances if deviations or inconsistencies are noted.
4. RESOLUTION: If non-compliances are issued, QAI the notifies the applicant's company allowing it to present a timely resolution.
5. CERTIFICATION: Finally, if the inspection and technical review are successful, the applicant is given an official, numbered certificate and is granted permission to use the organic mark.
STEPS AND PROCESSES TO GET ORGANIC FARMING CERTIFICATION OF CCOF
1. APPLICATION: The first step is to submit the CCOF certification application which is known as an Organic System Plan (OSP). The application helps the applicant to understand the required organic standards and describe their organic practices.
2. REVIEW: The next step is the review of the application by a CCOF certification specialist who assesses whether the applicant can continue with the organic certification. The certification specialist notifies the applicant if anything is missing or if there is a need to provide more clarification.
3. INSPECTION: The inspection is aimed at verifying that the details provided by the applicant in the OSP are being practiced.
4. REVIEW OF THE INSPECTION REPORT: CCOF certification specialists then review the inspection report alongside the applicant's OSP for compliance and accuracy.
5. CERTIFICATION DECISION: If the review process is successful, CCOF sends a letter informing the applicant of their certification status including any requirements for ongoing certification.
6. ANNUAL RENEWAL CONTRACT AND INSPECTION: Following certification, annual inspections of every operation, as well as annual certification fees, are required to remain certified. Companies must also continuously update CCOF on any OSP changes, new labels, or other operational changes.
HOW LONG IT TAKES TO BE CERTIFIED ORGANIC
It takes about 8-10 weeks after QAI receives all data required for review as well as payment. Different levels of rush services are also available. However, there is no information on whether the timeline varies on the type of produce.
It typically takes 6-10 weeks or less for special cases. The length of time depending on how complete the application is when submitted, the complexity of the applicant's operation, and how quickly the applicant responds to any requests for information that come up during the review process.
ASSOCIATED COSTS AND COST OF ORGANIC CERTIFICATION
Various factors such as the size of operation and location determine the fee for QAI’s organic certification. The actual fee for an application is determined after an application goes through the review process.