The Organic System Plan

What You Need to Know About Creating an Organic System Plan

To apply for organic certification, you must create an Organic System Plan (OSP), which describes how your farming, handling and/or processing practices meet organic standards. The OSP should clearly explain your operating plan, including information on crops, animals, harvests, sales, records, soil-building practices, pest management, health care, pasture, and any other practices related to organic production.

Organic records include:

  • Materials list outlining all substances used during the production of organic crops and livestock, including composts, fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, health-care products, and feed.
  • A map of all farmlands and production areas, illustrating how organic products are protected from contact with non-organically managed land.
  • Complete field history for growing areas and pastures used in organic production, which includes plot size, crops, and any substances that have been used.
  • Biodiversity plan outlining natural resource conservation.

Once completed, producers and handlers will send the OSP to a certifier as a part of their certification application.

Download the Guide for Organic Crop Producers (pdf) for more detailed guidance

OSPs for Split Operations, Livestock Producers, and Handlers/Processors

Split Operations

Many transitioning producers choose to convert only a portion of their land to organic production, while continuing to use conventional practices on other plots. This is known as a “split operation” and allows producers to begin raising organic products gradually. Producers may choose to transition to a fully organic operation over time or maintain split operations indefinitely.

When completing an OSP, split operations:

  • Must document any way that organic products might mix or come in contact with non-organic products or prohibited substances.
  • May need to provide information on both conventional and organic activities so that certifiers and inspectors can make sure the products are separated.

Download the Guide for Organic Crop Producers (pdf) for more detailed guidance

Livestock Producers

Organic livestock producers must also follow organic guidelines for growing organic pasture and feed, as well as raising organic animals. Guidelines include the following:

  • Generally, organic livestock must be raised organically from at least the third trimester of gestation.
  • Birds used for poultry or egg production, may come from any source, but must be raised organically beginning the second day of life.
  • Dairy animals must be raised organically for at least one year before their milk and milk products can be sold as organic.
  • Organic livestock may only eat certified organic feed.
  • Any pastures, forages, and plant-based bedding (such as hay) that livestock use or eat must be certified organic.
  • Ruminant animals (cattle, sheep, and goats) must spend at least one-third of the year on pasture.

Download the Guide for Organic Livestock Producers (pdf) for more detailed guidance

Handlers and Processors

Since their operations don’t use land for production, organic handlers and processors do not have a three-year transition. However, they must still complete an OSP that describes their handling and processing activities, including information about the type of business, ingredient purchases, transportation of raw ingredients, storage, cleaning and sanitation, processing, pest management, sales, and records.

The OSP for handlers should also include the following items:

  • Flowchart that shows the movement of organic products from the time they are received at the facility to the time they are sold as finished products
  • Facility map with enough detail to show the inspector where processing equipment is located
  • Product profile for each individual product that lists all ingredients and processing aids used and the suppliers from which they were obtained
  • Organic certificates from each supplier that verify ingredients are in fact organic
  • Labels for each organic product produced
  • List of materials used on food-contact surfaces, including cleansers and sanitizers
  • List of substances used during or after products are washed

Download the Guide for Organic Processors (pdf) for more detailed guidance

Other Helpful Resources

All About NOP