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Frequently Asked Questions


Countries we work in: Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Indonesia, Jamaica, Panama, Turkey, United States of America, Virgin Islands (U.S.)

States we work in: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin

Yes, we will do everything possible to accommodate your needs.

Yes. If you implement a specific trade practice that you want your consumers to know about, like the fact that your employees are not exposed to pesticides, that you pay your employees a living wage, or that your operation is powered through solar energy, we can certify you through our Specific Trade Practices program. Under our Specific Trade Practices program, QCS will certify up to 6 specific trade practices characteristic of your organic operation. You identify the trade practices that you wish QCS to certify, and we will include them in your regular audit and review. QCS will issue you a certificate listing the specific trade practices that we were able to verify.


An Organic System Plan (OSP) is, simply put, a document that describes all aspects of your operation that are required to verify compliance with organic standards. This includes your operation name, location, facilities, products, and production practices. It can seem daunting to make one from scratch – luckily, QCS’s application for organic certification is a fillable Organic System Plan. So, by filling out our application, you are completing an OSP. This document will eliminate the guesswork and guide you through the organic standards, step-by-step! 

Completing the OSP will take some time and may seem overwhelming. If you have questions about how to fill out your OSP at any time in your application process, you can schedule a free information session with our Client Care Specialist.

You can view and download our OSPs in our Document Library. Choose the OSP that is relevant to your operation. Your options are:

    • Organic Grower Plan
    • Organic Livestock Plan
    • Organic Handler/Processor Plan
    • Simple Organic Handler Plan (broker, trader, importer, or exporter)
    • Organic Restaurant-Handler Plan
    • Organic Retail Plan
    • Organic Aquaculture Plan
    • Organic Apiculture Plan
    • Organic Wild Crop Plan

    We strive to offer the best timeline for new clients and recommend planning accordingly based on your operational needs. Our standard timeline for certification is 3–4 months. This timeline considers all of our existing clients’ needs, as well as our current administrative capacity for new clients.

    Upon the approval of a completed Expedited Service Request, we do offer expedited certification for an additional cost. The expedited timelines are for either 30–40 working days or 15–20 working days. 

    We are proud to offer competitive rates for our certification services. The annual cost for certification breaks down into two parts: certification fees and inspection cost.

    Certification fees are based on the annual gross sales of organic products for your operation (for new operations, we will accept a projection for your first year if you do not have actual sales yet). Inspection costs are based on the relative simplicity to complexity of your operation. Essentially, this equates to the amount of time the inspector will spend on the inspection.

    Upon submitting your application, you will submit your certification fee as well as a deposit towards inspection (plus any additional fees such as on-farm processing, international verifications, expedited service fees, etc).  Any additional inspection fees will be charged after the inspection is complete.

    You can find our fee schedules in our Document Library.

    You’ll need to submit a completed Fee Payment Form and pay certification fees at the time you submit your application. The fee payment forms, listed below, are interactive check-list versions of the fee structures that allow you to calculate your certification fee total. Fees may be paid online or by mail.

    How to Make an Online Payment:

    • make payments at www.qcsinfo.org/payments 
    • first-time applicants: type “NEW” along with your business name in the “Invoice Number(s)” field on our online payment webpage.

    How to Pay by Mail:

    • please make checks made payable to Quality Certification Services
    • mail checks to 5700 SW 34th Street, Suite 349, Gainesville, FL 32608 USA.

    Fee Payment Forms:

    You can find the following fee payment forms in our Document Library.

    • Grower/Livestock Options 1 & 4 (Standard Producer or University/Research)
    • Grower/Livestock Option 2 (Multi-Unit Umbrella)
    • Grower/Livestock Option 3 (Dairy)
    • Handler/Processor Options 1 & 3 (Basic Handler or Contract Processor)
    • Simple Handler
    • Retail/Restaurant
    • Aquaculture

    For Growers: Your land is eligible for crop certification if there have been no prohibited substances applied within the last 36 contiguous months. You must be able to provide records proving that no prohibited substances applied in that period. This is covered in OGP 3C: Previous Land Use Affirmation. If you have not had management of the land for any part of the previous 36 months, the previous land manager will need to fill out OGP 3C for the portion of time they had management of the land. 

    For Livestock Meat/Dairy/Eggs: For dairy and beef cattle that are not currently certified, the herd is eligible for a one-time transition period of 12 months. You can find the specifics of transitioning a herd here. For calves, if the mother has been under organic management practices for the last third of gestation, the calf is eligible for organic certification upon birth. The calf must be managed organically from birth onwards. For poultry, chicks must be under organic management starting 24 hours after hatching. For eggs, they must come from certified birds. In addition to getting your herd or flock certified, the land of your operation must also be certified organic. The same rules for grower certification eligibility apply to fields used for organic livestock production.  

    For Processors: For multi-ingredient products, a good rule to follow is “organic input equals organic output.” All single ingredients must come from certified organic operations; you must retain copies of the organic certificates from each supplier. For a multi-ingredient product, at least 95% of the ingredients (excluding water and salt) must be certified organic for the final product to be considered organic.  

    As stated in 7 CFR 205.501(a)(11)(iv) as part of QCS’s obligation as a certifying body under the National Organic Program (NOP), we cannot offer consulting services. A good way to think about this is that we can tell you the “what,” but not the “how.” For example, we can tell you the regulations and rules about labels; we cannot tell you exactly how your labels should look for your specific products.

    If you would like help with how to implement regulations specific to your operation, you have the option to work with an organic consultant. Organic consultants are not certification bodies, so they can offer you specific advice for your operation. You are not required to work with a consultant to get organic certification. It is yet another resource that is available to you as you work towards or continue certification. 

    QCS maintains a list of organic consultants that you can view here.

    Yes. Our Organic Grower Plan includes a portion that covers different types of soilless growing methods. 

    You can find our Organic Grower Plan in our Document Library.

    Yes and no. If you are growing hemp with a THC content under 0.3%, then yes. It is considered hemp and is protected under federal law. If your operation is in a state where hemp production is legal, you will need to submit your state license that identifies your operation as an approved hemp grower. If you are growing cannabis with a THC content over 0.3%, it is not protected under federal law. Even if it is legal in your state to grow cannabis with a THC content over 0.3%, it is not eligible for USDA Organic Certification.

    There are currently no guidelines in the National Organic Program that outline rules for certifying seafood. QCS does have a Private Aquaculture Standard and Organic Aquaculture Plan. You can view and download these documents, as well as the related fee structure and fee payment form, in our Document Library.

    Depending on the type of operation you have, you can qualify for various food safety schemes. Please see our aquaponic food safety page for more information. 

    The SOE rule is an effort by the USDA to ensure that all entities involved in the organic supply chain are held to the same standards. This rule will affect brokers, handlers, importers, exporters, and all those in the supply chain previously exempt from certification.

    To ease this transition, QCS has created a Simple Organic Handler Plan, as well as an adjusted fee schedule and fee payment form for operations that will need to seek certification to be in compliance with this rule. 

    You can access these forms in our Document Library.

    The best place to look for the complete list is in the Code of Federal Regulations: The National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. This covers all inputs for all scopes that are allowed or prohibited in organic production. The Organic Material Review Institute (OMRI) is also a great resource for products that are approved for use in organic farming. Please note: always consult your certifier before you apply a new input in your operation, even if it is OMRI listed or listed as “allowed” on the National List.   

    As per 7 CFR 205.103(a)(b) the type of recordkeeping system you use in your operation is entirely up to you. It must be clear enough to verify compliance and traceability; usable by everyone in your operation to use it daily or as needed; and accessible for planned and unannounced inspections. Records are integral to organic certification. Clarity, consistency, and accessibility are more important than any fancy system. The rule is specifically written so that recordkeeping systems can be adapted to an individual operation’s needs.  

    QCS does not require an operation to use any specific record-keeping template. We do, however, offer example templates as free resources in case they’re helpful to you. View these below:

    You can find more resources and tip-sheets on the  NCAT-ATTRA Organic Farming website.

    A great place to start your search for organic seeds and planting stock is the website Beginning Farmers 

    If seeds or planting stock are not commercially available for the crop you want to grow, you will need to show records of three attempts to source the seeds from different businesses. If none of the three businesses have commercially available seeds or planting stock, you may use non-GMO seeds for all perennial plants. All seedlings must be managed organically at all points going forward. Non-GMO conventionally grown tree planting stock must be under organic management for a minimum of 12 months before the fruit from that tree can be considered organic. Annual seeds and microgreens must be grown from certified organic seeds. Please refer to CFR 205.204(a) for more further information.  

    No. Having your soil tested is not a requirement to apply for organic certification.

    Keep in mind: During inspection, your inspector may take soil samples as part of the audit.

    Once you are certified, you will be required to submit soil test results if you want to apply micronutrients. Soil test results will need to show the specific micronutrient deficiency you want to correct.

    Food Safety | G.A.P.

    Supermarkets, retailers, food service business and consumers everywhere are looking for food that is produced responsibly in ecologically sound conditions. This worldwide accepted certification enables producers and brand owners to provide consumers with assurance of the safe production and traceable marketing of food while protecting scarce resources. Individual producers or producer groups may be certified.

    You should find out directly from your buyer(s) what standards they will accept. Some buyers will only accept GFSI recognized standards such as GLOBALG.A.P.

    The importance is that your certificate should be accepted by all buyers worldwide. The motto is “once certified, accepted everywhere.” For more information about GFSI click here.

    You may download the application form as well as other informative documents from our website. Fill out the application and return it to qcs@qcsinfo.org. A QCS representative will send you the cost estimate and the service contract agreement once the application is received and checked.

    No, QCS is a third party accredited certification body and we cannot help you in that regard as we must maintain complete independence and impartiality throughout the certification process. This brings integrity, trust, and recognition to your certificate. However, if needed, you may seek advice elsewhere (e.g. consultants, growers associations, etc.).

    This varies according to each individual situation. However, if you meet all certification requirements, from the time QCS receives a signed service contract, payment, and conducts the on-site audit the timeline should be less than 15 days. The entire process timeline should be less than 30 days.

    The certificate is valid for 12 months from the date of the certification decision. Let’s say your on-site audit was conducted on August 15th, 2020, and the review of your file and positive certification decision was made on August 27th,2020. In this case, your certificate would show a valid from date of August 27th, 2014, and a valid to date of August 26th, 2021.

    You must have conducted a self-assessment to check compliance with the standard before the day of the audit. You may download and use the self-audit checklist available at our website.

    You must have documents and records available on-site demonstrating compliance with the standard for at least the past 90 days on the day of the audit.

    You must schedule your audit at a time when all of your production processes including harvesting may be audited for the products you want to certify.

    If your harvest process is different for your different crops the answer is yes as we must audit all of your production processes initially. For a renewal audit there may be some flexibility on a case-by-case basis.

    You should take corrective actions to bring your operation to a level of compliance where you think you will at least meet the minimum acceptance criteria as stated in the standard document. Doing this will improve your chance to obtain certification when you schedule a formal on-site audit.

    The main difference is that the Produce Harmonized GAP Standards are not recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) while the GLOBALG.A.P. Standards for produce are GFSI recognized.

    The Integrated Farm Assurance (IFA) standard for Fruit and Vegetables (F&V) is GLOBALG.A.P.’s flagship standard with a holistic approach to farm assurance including food safety, environment and biodiversity, workers welfare, and traceability requirements. All IFA standards are applicable and accepted worldwide.

    Produce Safety Assurance (PSA) is designed for regions where producers and their customers require only a food safety solution, the new Produce Safety Assurance Standard V5. based on the GLOBALG.A.P. Integrated Farm Assurance (IFA) Standard and consists of only the food safety elements.

    Harmonized Produce Safety Standard (HPSS) is designed for fruit and vegetable producers in the US or selling into the US market.  It covers all stages of production, from pre-harvest activities such as soil management and plant protection product application to post-harvest produce handling, packing and storing. This standard only focuses on food safety and traceability elements.

    The Field Operations and Harvesting standard is applicable to produce growers including field packing and handling, and transportation from the field to storage or packing house.

    The Post-Harvest Operation standard is applicable to packing houses handling fresh produce including storage, cooling, trimming, washing, and packing activities.

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