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Better farming with an organic system plan

The Organic System Plan (OSP) is a management tool for organic farmers who want to get certified. It can help a farm develop its potential and use available resources more effectively and efficiently.

What is an organic system plan?

An Organic System Plan is a requirement for organic farmers who want to get certification from the National Organic Program. It should describe your operating plan including detailed information on the materials and practices used in organic production as well as the map of the farm and its complete field history. Once they complete all the information in the OSP, the farm operator will send it to a certifier for review.

Organic system plan template

This article covers the following topics:

1. What is included in an organic system plan?

2. The steps toward an organic certification

3. Advantages of digital organic system plans

What purposes does an OSP checklist serve?

An OSP serves several purposes to an organic farm:

  • Detailed Description
    An Organic System contains a detailed description of all the human and natural resources of the operation. If the system is effectively implemented, an organic farm can develop its full potential and utilize its resources efficiently.
  • Management Tool

    The OSP also lists down possible conditions and challenges a farmer might face in the future. Through that plan, he will be able to make rational decisions rather than just react to problems.

  • Economic Tool

    If the OSP is well-constructed, organic farmers can create an effective budget for anticipated income and expenses for the coming season. It will also help sustain them ecologically and economically.

  • A Legal Contract

    The OSP serves as a legally binding contract to both the farm operation and the certifier. Once the OSP gets the approval of the certifier, it becomes a guarantee that the materials and practices used in the operations are acceptable.

What is included in an organic system plan?

The National Organic Program requires that organic records should include the following:

1. Description of Practices

Organic farm operators need to describe explicitly how they will manage their resources. It should also report any soil and water conservation practices they intend to use. The template should also describe planting and irrigation methods, tillage practices, crop rotations, composting facilities, and manure handling practices.

Descriptions should always include all the equipment, tools, and input that the farm will use as well as the methods and estimated frequency of practices. Agricultural professionals can help organic farm operators in preparing the OSP by giving them inputs, tools, and models so farmers can optimize the timing of their practices.

2. List of Substances

The OSP should also list all the substances that will be used as a handling or production input. It should also indicate the operational instruction, source, location, and composition of each substance, including the brand name products.

The locations where the pesticides and fertilizers will be used should be recorded and described on a field map. Any substance used but not included in the OSP must be reported to the NOP in advance. Failure to do so puts your application at risk for disapproval.

3. Monitoring Practices

Measuring and documenting your compliance with the requirements ensures that you have maintained the quality of the environment. It also shows that you have met certain application standards required by the NOP.

If you are using biopesticides or botanicals, the OSP should have a description of the minimum pest thresholds used to find out when specific crop protection elements will be applied. The same thing goes if the operation will be using compost. It should describe how temperatures are monitored and the number of times the compost is turned.

4. Recordkeeping System

Getting certified as an organic farm isn’t only about complying with the standards. You should also show your ability to document your compliance. Therefore, the organic system should contain all the recordkeeping documents used. You must be able to track and present all the products you used from beginning to end including the methods you used to manage the farm.

5. Contamination Prevention

Any farm risks the loss of certification because of contamination that might be a result of the co-mingling of organic and non-organic products, or organic crops and materials making contact with prohibited substances.

The farmer should show that the farm utilized all reasonable precautions to prevent contamination. The documentation will act as evidence to establish that contamination is due to circumstances that are beyond his control.

The steps toward an organic certification

An organic certification verifies that a farmer or farm operation from anywhere in the world has complied with the organic standards required by the NOP.

Here are the 5 steps you need to ensure you get certified:

1. Create an Organic System Plan

An organic system plan is created by any organic farmer or farm operator who wants to get certified. The plan shows how the farm will comply with the regulations based on its unique characteristics.

Each plan is different from each others based on the product or crop they produce. However, it should describe all the farming practices that are done on the farm. That includes monitoring practices, recordkeeping systems, growing processes, and methods that prevent co-mingling of organic and inorganic products.

2. Implement the Plan

All organic farm operations are certified by State, private, and foreign certifying agents accredited by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). They are located in and outside the United States. These entities make sure that organic products meet all the organic standards.

3. Receive Inspection

An authorized inspector will have a thorough ocular inspection of the farm. This comprehensive inspection depends on the type of farm. If you are raising crops, the fields, soil condition, crop health, and management of crops will be inspected among others.

If you are raising livestock, the inspection will include animal living conditions, feed production and ration, animal health and vaccination records, and more.

4. Let a Certifying Agent Review the Inspection Report

After the inspection, a certifying agent will review all the observations made by the inspector as opposed to the organic system plan of the organic facility. Aside from the inspections, the risk of contamination from prohibited materials will be assessed. The inspector might take soil and product samples for testing. The inspector will also analyze any potential hazard and vital points to ensure that the procedures to prevent contamination are enough.

5. Wait for the Approval

If the certifying agent has proven that the organic facility complied with all the requirements and it is thoroughly documented in the organic system plan, it will issue a certification that contains product listings of organic products that can be sold from that farm or facility.

Advantages of digital organic system plans

While some industries still use pen and paper, digital OSP is quickly gaining notoriety. Digital logging offers some distinct advantages:

For one, digital devices can be set up to log temperatures automatically, reducing the error rate and streamlining the logging process. In addition, a digital temperature log, as opposed to a hard copy, can be more easily shared, updated, and commented on.

Lumiform’s app and desktop software provide the best alternative to old fashion paper documents. In addition, the collected data can be easily converted into charts and graphs for evaluation. Lumiform’s powerful tool supports temperature monitoring in the following fields:

  • Convert any custom paper list into a digital checklist in minutes with the flexible form builder.
  • Easily create and customize digital templatesfor digital monitoring.
  • Record or photograph.
  • Lumiform’s scheduling features ensure that employees are reminded when their next organic system is due.
  • All measurement results are automatically bundled into a report and can be sent to stakeholders.

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