USDA Certified Roasters...

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Postby BeanGuru » Mon Oct 31, 2011 9:36 pm

I have a client that has been notified by the USDA that a complaint was filed because they market "organic" coffees. Upon contacting the USDA, they are saying that if the certified green bean is roasted, they have to be certified.

Has anyone gone thru this process and would be willing to discuss what that was like?

I'd like to find a coffee knowledgable certifier as well, anyone know any of those?

Thanks in advance,
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Postby PBeattie » Tue Nov 01, 2011 12:25 pm

Hi Guru,

This is correct that the roaster must be certified to process organics. The regulations are set by the USDA/NOP, but the certification process is handled by certifiers. I am in Washington so I use the Washington State Department of Agriculture, I have heard of people using Oregon Tilth with success, a google search for Organic certifiers would probably yield a good list.

The certification process entails a written certification packet and an annual inspection. The major things to keep in mind is the paper trail of certificates for the farm, the importer, the storage facility, and yourself for each coffee. You also have to have procedures in place to prevent commingling of organics and non-organics and purge procedures and logs for any equipment in your warehouse that is used for both conventional and organic coffees. There are also labeling requirements involved.

This process usually does not take long and each agency has different fee structures based on where you are located and what your volume is.

Hope this helps,

Phil Beattie
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Postby timd » Wed Nov 02, 2011 11:26 am

There are quite a few certifiers out there, as Phil mentioned Oregon Tilth is one, CCOF is another agency that works with a lot of coffee roasters. Depending on the location of the facility it makes sense to ask any agency if they have inspectors and/or other clients working in your area. Since inspectors bill clients for travel and lodging in addition to the on-site and report time it makes sense to try and find someone who works in your region.

Most groups will give you a cost estimate before you get started. There is typically a one-time application fee, a yearly fee based on the size of your operation and then the hourly fee for the inspection and report writing. In all, a small to mid-sized roaster will spend between $750-$1200 for their certification. You should also be aware that there have been USDA cost-share grants available for the past several years that will cover up to 75% or $750 of your certification costs. Any of the agencies who offer certification should be able to give you the cost share forms and details.

Things to start gathering/maintaining ahead of applying for certification include: Invoices, transaction certificates, roast logs, blend logs and MSDS (material safety data sheets) for anything used in the facility (dish soap, lubricants, cleaning solutions etc.) You will need to gather organic certificates from your suppliers and create and maintain a list of vendors who provide organic ingredients.

Most inspections of smaller facilities take about 1-1.5 hours to complete, it can go longer if you are not prepared or if you are dealing with extensive labeling, private labels or have other extenuating circumstances. The bulk of the time is spent reviewing documents but a plant inspection takes place as well. If you do not have segregated grinding a packaging areas you will need to develop protocols for grinder purging and workspace cleaning. Most roasters do not dedicate a single machine for roasting organic coffee so you will need to create a purging protocol. I have seen a wide variety of accepted protocols here. Some agencies will ask that your first organic batch of the session be sold as conventional while others are fine with a wipe down and allow the roaster pre-heat cycle to act as a high-temperature purge. (This is ideal if you can get them to agree with the latter method)
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