The department certifies crops as “organic” only if harvest has occurred at least three years after the most recent use of a prohibited material. Production practices and on-farm and off-farm material inputs are classified as permitted, prohibited, or regulated by the department. Permitted and prohibited practices apply statewide. Regulated practices may vary from region to region as specified in the standards. The department may approve the temporary use of regulated practices upon demonstrated need, if a farm plan, use report, or other written plan is submitted by a certified person or an applicant for certification shows that these regulated practices will be discontinued over time, or if no other alternative material or practice is available.
Producers of planted crops who have satisfied all requirements for certification except the passage of the required three-year period may market their crops under the Texas Department of Agriculture’s “Transitional–Organic Certification Pending” label. The department does not certify part of farm unless exist a distinct, defined boundaries between fields under organic management and other fields. The boundaries shall include a 25-foot buffer zone separating land managed organically from other cultivated agricultural land or non-agricultural land. A crop grown in an organically managed field, any part of which is located adjacent to a field in which a prohibited material has been applied will require an additional 25-foot buffer zone (50 feet total). Additional buffer zones may be imposed if it is determined that drift, run-off condition or other farming practices may jeopardize the certification of the organically managed farm or field.
The producer must submit an application for certification a full and complete three-year farm history of agricultural use established from accurate, verifiable records including crop records, production or management plans and full complete supporting documentation such as affidavits from previous and/or current owner-manager, and FSA records. Producers must renew certification annually.
Documentation & Record Keeping
Producers must maintain an integrated record keeping system including records of all production practices, harvest dates, yields, product inventory and sales. Complete historical and annual records of purchases, inventory and usages of off-farm and on-farm inputs including application dates, rates, types of materials and equipment used for application must be maintained by the producer. Certified producers are reviewed on an annual basis and are subject to unannounced or subsequent inspections. On-site inspections may be conducted on each field immediately prior to or during harvest.
Crops grown in buffer zone areas must be harvested separately and fully documented by an onsite inspection, including verification through weight and inventory records. Crops harvested from buffer zones must be sold as conventional crops rather than organic. Harvesting equipment, used for conventional crops must be mechanically or physically cleaned prior to harvesting organic crops.
Producers must adhere to defined certification standards with the degree of compliance determined by a numerical certification rating system. The Certification Rating Report provides the inspector with a method of evaluating an organic cropping system. Categories include Farm History, Documentation and record keeping, Soil condition, Propagation material use, Crop rotation and cover cropping. Soil and water conservation, Fertilization management, Insect management, Disease management, Weed management, Buffer zone requirements, Harvest and handling and Operator management.
Soil condition must be fostered primarily by increasing the soil’s organic content through crop rotation, cover cropping, manuring and/or composting. Producers should utilize an integrated soil management program which includes both temporal and spatial crop rotation with a full-season, multiple crop production system that includes extensive use of legumes and green manure crops, cover cropping and mulching for improved soil condition and for optimal annual and perennial weed management. Soil amendments and fertilizers categorized as permitted or regulated may be utilized for supplemental sources of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, management of soil pH and micronutrients. Crop nutrition management must be based on annual soil fertility analysis and/or plant tissue analysis. Also nutrient credits for manure, compost, legume cover crops and soil organic matter should be factored into crop nutrition management decisions. Soil conservation practices may include, but are not limited to, terracing, benching, land leveling, furrow diking, conservation, conservation tillage and planting practices. Also included are adequate use of cover crops, mulches and surface crop residues to enhance soil and water conservation. Water conservation practices include irrigation scheduling, application rates and intervals, and soil and crop moisture utilization. Crediting of available moisture levels in making irrigation decisions is also included in certification ratings for water conservation.
Use of any synthetic herbicides including rope-wick application is prohibited. Weed management of both annual and perennial weeds must be through extensive preventive weed management including crop rotation, cover cropping, mulching and smother cropping. Also, cultural practices such as mowing, grazing and shallow cultivation including flame cultivation are allowed. However, cropland weed management dependent upon extensive cultivation is discouraged.
Insect Pest Management
Insect management should be based on integrated pest management principles including cultural practices such as planning production schedules, planting resistant varieties, planting dates crop selection, rotation, trap cropping and intercropping. Producers may use other practices including pheromone traps, sticky traps, vacuuming and water jets, or other mechanical or physical controls. Also extensive use of beneficial organisms such as parasites, predators, and pathogens is encouraged. Crop management including intercropping or utilization of legume or grass cover crops to develop natural insectaries is encouraged and beneficial insects may also be released by artificial application methods. Pheromones used in traps or for mating disruption are also allowed. Biological pesticides such as Bt’s (Bacillus thuringiensis), viruses and entomopathic fungi are permitted. Minimal applications of permitted or regulated materials such as insecticidal soaps natural vegetable oils, herbal preparations and diatomaceous earth are permitted pest controls. Use of botanical pesticides such as pyrethrum, rotenone, sabidilla, quassia and ryania are regulated pest control methods and may be utilized only upon justification of need.
Disease prevention must be a consideration in planning production schedules, choosing crops, locating and sizing plantings, and deciding soil-management practices. Management practices such as planting resistant varieties, timing planting to avoid cycles of pest emergence, intercropping, crop rotations, and avoidance of excessive fertilization can be useful in preventing disease problems. If justified and authorized by the department, a producer may use copper and sulfur-based fungicides, including Bordeaux mixture, tri-basic copper formulations, cupric oxide, copper sulfate, elemental and liquid sulfur, and lime sulfur (calcium polysulfide).
A complete listing of all TDA approved products for use in organic production is available in the organic certification packet.
Producers or managers must have an extensive, in-depth knowledge of organic standards and certification procedures. An optimal producer plans and implements extensive integrated organic crop management systems and demonstrate and implements extensive environmental and soil conservation programs. A producer must complete documentation entirely and on a timely basis and is cooperative with TDA inspection.