Published 19 Jul 2023
What is the Organic System Plan?
The Organic System Plan (OSP) is a comprehensive documentation of organic operations according to the standards of the National Organic Program (NOP) regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Farmers, ranchers, and businesses that sell or label agricultural products as organic should demonstrate the integrity of production and handling practices in the Organic System Plan to display the USDA organic seal.
In this article
- What Should an Organic System Plan Include?
- How to Effectively Implement Your Organic System Plan
- Smart Technology to Guarantee Organic Integrity with Ease
- 5 Free Templates for Your Organic System Plan
What Should an Organic System Plan Include?
An organic system plan template is a digital tool used by producers and handlers of organic crops, livestock, and poultry to provide complete evidence of organic operations and keep all records available for inspection. An organic system plan should include the following details for crop production:
- Land Requirements
- Description of the Operation and Soil, Crop Nutrient Management, and Crop Rotation
- Compost and Manure (if applicable)
- Natural Resources of the Operation and Biodiversity Conservation Management
- Seedlings, Seed, and Planting Stock
- Pest, Disease, and Weed Management
- Materials List (Input Substances)
- Audit Trail, Traceability, and Production Verification
- Labeling and Representation of Organic Product
- Contamination and Commingling Risk Assessment and Prevention Plan
How to Effectively Implement Your Organic System Plan
Upon submission of your Organic System Plan, USDA representatives and accredited certifiers initially review it to determine possible compliance issues before the organic inspection—where they physically verify your organic operations and if records reflect the reality on your grounds.
Whether your Organic System Plan is approved or denied, demonstrating organic integrity is a continuous process, especially for those approved with reminders and approved upon resolution of noncompliance. Here are ways to effectively implement your Organic System Plan:
Verify the effectiveness of your Organic System Plan regularly
In an organic system plan template, you may have already noticed how being certified organic means that your operations should always demonstrate compliance with organic standards. Your monitoring methods should be clearly communicated to your staff, performed according to the indicated frequency or timing, and easily tracked with supporting documents.
Here are examples of how you can prove the effectiveness of your Organic System Plan regularly:
- Routine preventative tasks for recurrent or potential pest, disease, and weed problems like tillage, mowing, and sanitizing tools and equipment
- Before fertilizer application, weekly, or as needed soil or crop observation, analysis of soil characteristics (nutrient and organic matter content), plant tissue or microbiological tests, and crop yield or crop quality comparison
- Scheduled maintenance and improvement of natural resources such as water (conservation and quality), woodlands, wetlands, and other habitat types, wildlife, ecological balance, and biodiversity, including control of invasive species
- Monthly quality assurance and internal controls check for management practices and physical barriers using an organic farming plan checklist and an organic farming plan template
- Quarterly risk assessments to identify, assess, and mitigate potential risks of commingling (contact between organic and non-organic product) and contamination by prohibited materials or their residues, plant nutrients, heavy metals, and pathogens
Audit and improve your recordkeeping practices periodically
Another characteristic of an effective Organic System Plan is the ability to show how your recordkeeping system consistently maintains organic integrity in each specific farming activity. Make sure that records of your organic product—from its production site; input substances, seed and planting stock; farm management practices and crop rotation; harvest, post-harvest handling, storage and transport; to final sale or release of custody—are traceable.
Use an organic management plan checklist to easily identify gaps in your recordkeeping system, share best practices with your staff, and continuously improve how you document your organic operations, especially because all records are subject to inspection by the USDA and accredited certifiers.
Review and update your Organic System Plan annually
As producers and handlers of organic crops, livestock, and poultry, keep in mind that your Organic System Plan should be regularly reviewed, especially because organic inspectors will visit your farm, ranch, or business—announced or unannounced—at least once a year.
Whenever a significant change is made to your operation (adding micronutrients for soil fertility, keeping animals healthy with a different treatment, new handling methods that may expose the organic product to prohibited substances, etc.), update your OSP and use an organic inspection checklist to be prepared for the annual inspection, having confidence in your operation that guarantees organic integrity.
Smart Technology to Guarantee Organic Integrity with Ease
Documenting organic operations with pen-and-paper can be challenging as it requires demonstrable efforts for planning, organizing, and verifying your Organic System Plan. As your audit trail is crucial for traceability and product verification, recordkeeping practices should be topnotch to gain organic certification.
With SafetyCulture (iAuditor), the world’s leading inspection platform, you can streamline monitoring methods, records, and workflows to guarantee organic integrity with ease. Empower your staff with an inspection and corrective action tool that helps you:
- Maintain and improve organic operations with streamlined observations and quality assurance checks based on your Organic System Plan
- Encourage effective monitoring methods, contributing to faster turnaround of complete records and easier tracking of your audit trail
- Take pictures of organic crop and/or livestock production and/or handling or processing activities, notify your staff, and immediately document and apply corrections
- Upload annotated images of potential risks, noncompliance, or best practices during scheduled audits for improved visual reference
- Save crucial data in SafetyCulture’s secure cloud storage and easily recover them when reviewing or updating organic system plan templates
- Worry less on complying with USDA recordkeeping requirements and easily access up-to-date files through SafetyCulture’s electronic storage
- Facilitate faster work closure, more accurate and visible data, reduced data-management costs, and avoiding lost or incomplete records that require expensive rework
5 Free Templates for Your Organic System Plan
An organic inspection checklist is used to perform self-checks for the proper documentation of organic crop and/or livestock production and/or organic product handling and processing. Use this checklist to assess your organic operation’s recordkeeping before the scheduled inspection for organic certification. Assign an action for every non-compliant practice such as missing equipment clean-out logs, incomplete composting process records, and outdated storage documentation.
An organic farming plan checklist is used by organic crop producers to conduct quality assurance checks of specific organic production activities and verify their effectiveness. Use this checklist to inspect your sources of seedling and perennial stock, soil and crop fertility management processes, and natural resources and biodiversity management practices. Enable real-time reminders of scheduled inspections sent to your farm staff and ensure that internal controls maintain the organic integrity of your operations.
This organic farming plan template is used to empower assigned staff to evaluate crop management practices, maintenance of organic integrity, and recordkeeping system regularly. Use this template to easily monitor weed, pest, and/or diseases control methods, safeguards against contamination and commingling, and equipment and storage area cleaning. Provide photo evidence to easily demonstrate compliance to organic standards and effectively implement your Organic System Plan.
This organic management plan checklist is built to make it easier for organic farm owners and managers to personally evaluate key details of the Organic System Plan and align current practices to it before the annual organic inspection. Use this checklist to assess contamination and commingling risks, recordkeeping system, and audit trail, traceability, and product verification practices. Complete the organic management report with your overall observations and digital signature, automatically shared to your farm staff.