Organic lettuce greens seedlings in Mohawk Valley, New York.

Organic Foods and Farming

Organic Foods and Farming
SHARE

Overview

The term “organic” can be used to label products when farmers and food processors follow the federal regulations comprising the National Organic Program.  Organic farming methods emphasize soil health, biological insect and disease control, and natural fertilizers.  Organic food processors cannot use synthetic food preservatives or non-organic additives, although there are several exceptions.

The Department does not certify farms or foods as organic, but can help you to find organizations that offer organic certification and can assist in reimbursing the cost of that certification through our Organic Certification Reimbursement Program.

Certification

Federal regulations provide detailed requirements for the farm production methods and products that can be used when farmers and food manufacturers wish to label their products “certified organic.”  

The steps to becoming certified organic are to:

  • Become familiar with the regulations;
  • Determine if you qualify to become certified organic now or if you must plan for transition over the next several years; and
  • Locate and contact an organic certification organization and apply for certification.

Anyone producing over $5,000 of product that wishes to label and sell their farm or commercial product as “organic” must be certified. Farmers and food processors must both be certified, as must distributors involved in repackaging.  Producers with under $5,000 per year in gross sales do not need to become certified unless they wish to sell their product to be used and identified as an ingredient in a certified organic processed food product. 

All organizations accredited to certify farms and businesses are listed on the federal National Organic Program website.  While any accredited certification organization can operate in New York State, not all choose to do so. Below, you may also download a list of organizations providing organic certification services in New York State.

Certification Reimbursement

Organic farmers and processors are eligible for a reimbursement of 75% of their annual certification fee costs not to exceed $750. The certification must be conducted by an organization accredited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For more information on the Organic Certification Reimbursement Program, please contact us.

Find a Farm

Visit the USDA's Organic Integrity Database to find a specific certified organic farm or business, or search for an operation with specific characteristics.

Additionally, town, city, or county organizations, such as local Chambers of Commerce, Cornell Cooperative Extension offices, and local food groups, are a good source of information, in addition to word of mouth.

Finally, certification organizations maintain lists of the farms they certify. Some provide lists of their certified farm online. Check our list of organizations providing organic certification services in New York State to see which ones list certified farms.

View the list