Montana Department of Agriculture logo

Montana Certified Organic Program logo.

Organic Program Goals

  1. Provide professional, efficient and objective organic certification services to farmers, ranchers, and handlers.
  2. Facilitate the growth and success of organic agriculture in Montana.
  3. Protect consumers by monitoring and enforcing compliance with state and federal laws governing organic production, handling and product labeling.

The program is a USDA certifier of organic producers and handlers under the USDA National Organic Program. The program facilitates international marketing of organic products with Canada, the European Union, Japan, and Taiwan.

Quick Info

The USDA has published a helpful article regarding Organic Certification: Is Organic an Option for Me?

You can learn more about the certification process under the How to be Certified tab below.

New applicants can apply at anytime, and renewal applications are due on the following dates:

Refer to additional due dates below on the Forms tab.

Montana ranks 1st among states in production of certified organic wheat, and 2nd in organic dry peas, lentils and flax.

Find a specific certified organic farm or business, or search for an operation with specific characteristics at the USDA Organic INTEGRITY Database.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced at the end of 2015 that they will extend the organic farmer exemption from conventional commodity checkoffs to ALL organic farmers, effective February 29, 2016. Organic farmers are no longer required to pay into conventional checkoff promotion programs that promote conventional products directly competing with their organic products.

For more information:

  • How to be
    Certified
  • Forms
     
  • Cost
    Share
  • Resources
     
  • Organic
    Advisory Council
Montana Organic Certification process flowchart.
Download the What is Organic Certification? Fact Sheet (PDF format) from the USDA.

 

Fill Out Application Forms (Application, System Plan(s), and Land Application)
  • Forms can be found on the Forms tab.
Application, Fees & Deadlines
  • Complete application, sales report, appropriate system plans, land applications and submit, with applicable fees, to the Montana Department of Agriculture by March 15th for Crop Producers and Livestock Producers or by September 15th for Handlers.
  • NEW APPLICANTS CAN APPLY AT ANY TIME AND ARE NOT SUBJECT TO THE LATE FEE!
  • We can now take debit card/credit card payments over the phone. Please call 406.444.7804 to make a payment.
Information/Documentation
  • Respond to any questions regarding your application and supply additional information or documentation if requested.
Record Keeping
  • Establish and maintain necessary records and documentation of purchased materials, production or handling activities and product sales.
Inspection
  • Schedule on-site inspection.
  • Provide access to all production records and documentation.
  • Provide access to all production or handling sites.
Updates
  • Notify the Department immediately of any changes to system plans (intended or unintended).
Review/Appeal/Correction
  • Review certification decision letter and Organic certificate for accuracy.
  • Report any discrepancies to the Department.
Useful Documents & Links

 

  1. Seed Labels and Purchase Invoices or Receipts
  2. Seed Search Documentation (at least 3)
  3. Material Labels for those that are Used – Inoculants, Weed and Pest Control, Soil Amendments, Fertilizers, etc.
  4. Livestock Feed and Supplements Labels and Purchase Invoices/Receipts (if applicable)
  5. Livestock feeding Records (if applicable)
  6. Pasture Management Records (if applicable)
  7. Field Activity records/Field History Records
  8. Planting & Harvest Dates
  9. Yields
  10. Crop Storage Records/Bins
  11. Sales Invoices, Bills of Lading, Scale Tickets
  12. Crop Summary Sheet (pdf) or (doc) (from MDA form for Crop Rotation Records)
  13. Detailed Maps size 8 ½ x 11 Google Color Preferred
  14. Photos as Applicable for Verification
  1. Receiving Documents for All Ingredients (purchase orders, purchase invoices, freight bill of lading, scale tickets)
  2. Production Records
  3. Recipes or Current Product Profiles (pdf) or (xlsx)
  4. Current Organic Certificates from Ingredient Suppliers
  5. Equipment Clean-out and Purge Logs
  6. Sales Invoices & Bills of Lading
  7. Material Invoices (Cleaning, Packaging Materials etc.)
  8. Ingredient and Final Product Inventory Reports
  9. Shrink Log
  10. Pest Control Log and Labels for Materials used for Pest Control
  11. Detailed Sales by Item Reports for Organic Products (pdf) or (xls)

Guidelines for Completing & Submitting Forms

  • Microsoft Word and Excel documents can be completed electronically for mailing or emailing, but have larger file sizes and slower download times.
  • Most of the Adobe (PDF) documents also can be completed electronically for mailing or emailing and have smaller files sizes and faster download times. Note: PDF documents require Adobe Reader or similar application for viewing. Download a free version of Adobe Reader.
  • Forms may be printed and filled out by hand or with a typewriter.
  • Please remember that you should retain a copy of all forms submitted for your records for 5 years.
  • The Producer Application Fee Schedule can be downloaded as an MS Word document or as a PDF document, and is also available on the form categories below.
  • The Handler Application Fee Schedule can be downloaded as an MS Word document or as a PDF document, and is also available on the form categories below.

We can now take debit card/credit card payments over the phone. Please call (406) 444-7804 to make a payment.
 

Organic Producer Application Forms - Required for Certification
Organic Producer System Plan - Required for Certification
Organic Land Application Forms

We can now take debit card/credit card payments over the phone. Please call (406) 444-7804 to make a payment.
New producer applications may be submitted at any time and are not subject to the late fee!

Application Fees (submitted with the application)

Download the Producer Application Fee Schedule as an MS Word document or as a PDF document.

  • Base Fee
    • Operations with gross Organic sales charges less than $20,000: $600
    • Operations with gross Organic sales charges of $20,001 - 40,000: $700
    • Operations with gross Organic sales charges of $40,001-100,000: $800
    • Operations with gross Organic sales charges of $100,001-250,000: $900
    • Operations with gross Organic sales charges of $250,001-500,000: $1,000
    • Operations with gross Organic sales charges of $500,001-1,000,000: $1,250
    • Operations with gross Organic sales charges greater than $1,000,000: $1,500
  • Producer/Handler Allowance (if applying for both categories) subtract: -$115
  • New Application Credit (for first-time applicants) subtract: -$100
  • Livestock Fee: $100
  • Late Fee: $200
    • Applications to renew handler certification are due by September 15th annually.
    • An additional $100 late fee applies for each additional month.
Assessment Fees

Certified Producer operations pay an annual assessment fee based on their level of gross annual sales of organic products. Assessments are charged according to the following schedule:

  • Operations must pay a minimum assessment fee of: $150
  • Operations must pay: 0.5% of sales
  • Operations will pay a maximum of: $5,000
Inspection Fees

Billed at cost of service, plus 10% administrative fee.

Miscellaneous Fees
  • Expedited Services Fee: A surcharge of up to $1,000 may be charged for expedited services depending on the speed, time of year, and resources required. The department may set pricing standards within department policy.

The department shall assess a Collection Fee of 18% annual percentage rate or a minimum fee of $25, whichever is greater, for any un-paid balances not received on or before the last regular business day of the month. The department may require payment of past-due fees prior to providing certification services.

Organic Producer Application Forms - Required for Certification
Organic Livestock System Plan - Required for Certification
Organic Land Application Forms

We can now take debit card/credit card payments over the phone. Please call (406) 444-7804 to make a payment.
New producer applications may be submitted at any time and are not subject to the late fee!

Application Fees (submitted with the application)

Download the Producer Application Fee Schedule as an MS Word document or as a PDF document.

  • Base Fee
    • Operations with gross Organic sales charges less than $20,000: $600
    • Operations with gross Organic sales charges of $20,001 - 40,000: $700
    • Operations with gross Organic sales charges of $40,001-100,000: $800
    • Operations with gross Organic sales charges of $100,001-250,000: $900
    • Operations with gross Organic sales charges of $250,001-500,000: $1,000
    • Operations with gross Organic sales charges of $500,001-1,000,000: $1,250
    • Operations with gross Organic sales charges greater than $1,000,000: $1,500
  • Producer/Handler Allowance (if applying for both categories) subtract: -$115
  • New Application Credit (for first-time applicants) subtract: -$100
  • Livestock Fee: $100
  • Late Fee: $200
    • Applications to renew handler certification are due by September 15th annually.
    • An additional $100 late fee applies for each additional month.
Assessment Fees

Certified Producer operations pay an annual assessment fee based on their level of gross annual sales of organic products. Assessments are charged according to the following schedule:

  • Operations must pay a minimum assessment fee of: $150
  • Operations must pay: 0.5% of sales
  • Operations will pay a maximum of: $5,000
Inspection Fees

Billed at cost of service, plus 10% administrative fee.

Miscellaneous Fees
  • Expedited Services Fee: A surcharge of up to $1,000 may be charged for expedited services depending on the speed, time of year, and resources required. The department may set pricing standards within department policy.

The department shall assess a Collection Fee of 18% annual percentage rate or a minimum fee of $25, whichever is greater, for any un-paid balances not received on or before the last regular business day of the month. The department may require payment of past-due fees prior to providing certification services.

Organic Handler Application Forms - Required for Certification
Organic Handler System Plan - Required for Certification

We can now take debit card/credit card payments over the phone. Please call (406) 444-7804 to make a payment.
New producer applications may be submitted at any time and are not subject to the late fee!

Application Fees (submitted with the application)

Download the Producer Application Fee Schedule as an MS Word document or as a PDF document.

  • Base Fee
    • Operations with gross Organic sales/handling charges less than $20,000: $600
    • Operations with gross Organic sales/handling charges of $20,001 - 40,000: $700
    • Operations with gross Organic sales/handling charges of $40,001-100,000: $800
    • Operations with gross Organic sales/handling charges of $100,001-250,000: $900
    • Operations with gross Organic sales/handling charges of $250,001-500,000: $1,000
    • Operations with gross Organic sales/handling charges of $500,001-1,000,000: $1,250
    • Operations with gross Organic sales/handling charges greater than $1,000,000: $1,500
  • Producer/Handler Allowance (if applying for both categories) subtract: -$115
  • New Application Credit (for first-time applicants) subtract: -$100
  • Late Fee: $200
    • Applications to renew handler certification are due by September 15th annually.
    • An additional $100 late fee applies for each additional month.
Assessment Fees

Certified Handling operations pay an annual assessment fee based on their level of gross annual sales of and handling charges for organic products. Assessments are charged according to the following schedule:

  • Operations must pay a minimum assessment fee of: $150
  • Operations must pay: 0.5% of sales
  • Operations will pay a maximum of: $5,000
Inspection Fees

Billed at cost of service, plus 10% administrative fee.

Miscellaneous Fees
  • Lab/Product Profile Review Fee for each new/revised label: $35
  • Expedited Services Fee: A surcharge of up to $1,000 may be charged for expedited services depending on the speed, time of year, and resources required. The department may set pricing standards within department policy.

The department shall assess a Collection Fee of 18% annual percentage rate or a minimum fee of $25, whichever is greater, for any un-paid balances not received on or before the last regular business day of the month. The department may require payment of past-due fees prior to providing certification services.

Organic Land Application Forms
Also Required for Land Certification for New Producers

We can now take debit card/credit card payments over the phone. Please call (406) 444-7804 to make a payment.

USDA Organic Cost Share

The current Farm Bill has provided funding for the Organic Cost Share Program! The Cost Share Program provides reimbursement for 75% of Organic Certification costs or $750 maximum for each certification scope (Crops, Livestock, Wild Crops, and Handling). This means you may be eligible for reimbursement under the Cost Share Program.

The Cost Share Program is administered on a first-come, first-serve basis, so please submit your application as soon as possible. New applicants are eligible for the Cost Share Program as long as they provide their Organic Certificate.

Additional fees, such as late fees or other penalty fees, are not eligible for reimbursement. 

To apply, please fill out the application form below. Mail a copy of the signed application and supporting documentation to our office by the deadline of October 30, 2016:

Montana Department of Agriculture
Organic Certification Program
P.O. Box 200201
Helena, MT 59620-0201

Supporting documentation must be submitted with your application in order to issue payment. Applications submitted without the supporting documentation will be considered incomplete.

Supporting documentation should include:

  • Invoices or Receipts itemizing certification costs (late fees and other penalties are not eligible for reimbursement)
  • Proof of Organic Certification (Notice of Certification or Certificate)
  • W-9 form to verify Tax ID or Social Security Number

If you have any questions about fee eligibility or eligibility of your operation please contact our office.

Webinars
Webinars on the latest in organic farming practices and research are available through eXtension.org, a part of the cooperative university extension system. You can also find webinar recordings on the eOrganic YouTube channel and additional resources at eOrganic.info.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) National Organic Program (NOP) offers resources to make organic certification more accessible, affordable, and attainable. These resources help farms and businesses understand the USDA organic standards, certification process, and inspections in more depth. You can also subscribe to the USDA Organic Insider for regular updates from NOP.

Online Resources
  • Sound and Sensible from the USDA AMS: Making organic certification more accessible, attainable, and affordable involves collaboration with many partners across the country and around the globe. To support this work, in September 2014 the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) National Organic Program (NOP) awarded 14 project contracts to 14 organizations with the goal of advancing the NOP’s Sound and Sensible initiative. Each team had one year to complete their projects – all aimed at identifying and removing barriers to certification and streamlining the certification process – and AMS/NOP is now ready to launch the results of their work. In the coming months, AMS/NOP will publish these new resources in a series of releases, based on a common theme.
  • Ten Steps to Transition Checklist: Written for prospective producers, this checklist outlines 10 steps for transitioning to organic certification. This easy-to-scan handout, in both English and Spanish, introduces new farmers to the certification process. Materials also include sample documents for organizations that want to host their own "Certification Made Simple" Workshops. Produced by USDA AMS with the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF).
  • "How To..." Modules: This package of how-to guides covers key steps towards organic certification. The primers tackle high-interest topics and provide an organized resource that answers common questions from producers and certifiers. Produced by USDA AMS with the Massachusetts/Baystate Organic Certifiers – MBOC
  • Tip Sheets on Organic Standards: These resources, in both English and Spanish, summarize the rules and regulations, basic steps, key processes, and additional resources for newly certified operations. Topics include the organic approach to animal health; treatment of sick and injured livestock; organic pest management; soil resources; manure; compost; crop rotation; and transitioning orchards. Produced by USDA AMS with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT).
  • Tip Sheets on Certification Guidelines: These reference guides are for certified and prospective organic farmers, and provide guidelines for organic certification of dairy, poultry, and crops production. There’s also a document that answers common questions on the organic certification process. Produced by USDA AMS with the Northeast Organic Farming Association – Vermont – NOFA-VT.
  • Recordkeeping Case Studies Guide: Organized recordkeeping is key to maintaining certification. This Recordkeeping Guide features case studies of successful recordkeeping models from different types of farms, ranging from small operations to large, diverse farms. Produced by USDA AMS with Oregon Tilth.
  • Organic System Plan Template: The organic system plan is the cornerstone of any application for certification and the jumping off point for transitioning to organic practices. This streamlined template provides a guide for highly diversified farms to develop organic system plans and provides a starting point for newly accredited certifiers to develop customized templates for prospective producers. Produced by USDA AMS with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT)-West.
  • Inspection Report Form: This inspection report form is meant to be used with ATTRA’s Streamlined Organic System Plan (OSP) for Crop Production, to make the inspection report process more transparent. The generic template can also be used as a teaching tool for producers who want to learn more about the areas the inspector will review during the on-site visit. Produced by USDA AMS with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT)-West.
  • Pre-Inspection Questionnaire: Preparing for an inspection should not be intimidating. Producers can fill out this 18-question pre-inspection questionnaire to help them identify what information and records to have ready before inspectors arrive to ensure a smooth and complete inspection. Produced by USDA AMS with ALBA/NCAT.
  • Organic 101 from the USDA Blog: Posts tagged Organic 101 from the official USDA blog.
  • Veggie Compass: Veggie Compass is an ongoing project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that involves the development of whole farm profit management tools and workshops. The system focuses upon a comprehensive spreadsheet designed to facilitate the analysis of farm records. Video tutorials offer a step-by-step demonstration of how the spreadsheet can be used to give farmers a much fuller and illuminating picture of their farm finances than regular recordkeeping systems provide.
  • Montana Organic Association (MOA): MOA is a nonprofit 501(c)(6) organization that provides education, information, support, assistance, promotion, and representation for organic producers, processors, handlers, retailers, consumers, researchers, agricultural service providers, and other interested parties. 
  • Organically Certified Operations Exemption from Paying into Conventional Check-offs: A summary of new regulations regarding organic products and checkoff programs from the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance.
  • Exemption of Organic Products From Assessment Under a Commodity Promotion Law (USDA AMS): This rule implements the provisions of section 10004 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 and modifies the organic assessment exemption regulations under 23 Federal marketing orders and 22 research and promotion programs (commodity promotion programs). This rule amends the current regulations to allow persons that produce, handle, market, process, manufacture, feed, or import “organic” and “100 percent organic” products to be exempt from paying assessments associated with commodity promotion activities.

For economic data and information related to organic markets, refer to the links below:

Montana Organic Commodity Advisory Council

The eight-member Montana Organic Commodity Advisory Committee advises the department on the operation of the state's new Organic Certification Program. Under Montana administrative rules, the department director serves on the committee, along with certified organic producers, a certified organic handler, and a consumer representative.

Board Members

Name City Phone Email Term End Qualifications
Ron de Yong Helena (406) 444-3156 rdeyong@mt.gov   Agriculture Director, Statutory Appointment
Allison Harmon Bozeman (406) 994-4133 harmon@montana.edu 8/19/2018 Organic Consumer
Matt Johnson Hinsdale (406) 648-5407 jriorganic@gmail.com 8/19/2016 Organic Producer
Ty O'Connor Broadus (406) 554-3412 oconnorranch@yahoo.com 8/19/2017 Organic Producer
Catherine Odden Dutton (406) 463-2410 mocao2410@gmail.com 8/19/2017 At Large Representative
Karl Sutton Polson (406) 883-0974 freshrootsorganicfarm@gmail.com 8/19/2018 Organic Producer
Mark Smith Lavina (406) 667-2332 mark@aspen-island-ranch.com 8/19/2018 Organic Livestock Producer
Greg Thayer Great Falls (800) 548-8554 greg@montanamilling.com 8/19/2016 Organic Handler

MDA Organic Certification Program
Phone : (406) 444-7804
E-mail : agrorganic@mt.gov
Fax : (406) 444-9466
302 N Roberts
Helena, MT 59601

Organic Program Forms & Files

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