Public Service and Agriculture

Clemson draws USDA praise for organic certification


peach blossom bee pollination
Through inspection and record keeping, organic certification guarantees that products sold as organic follow federal regulations.

CLEMSON — The regulatory arm of Clemson University has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program (NOP) as among the nation’s best organic certification programs.

The NOP cited Clemson for “exceptional quality and timeliness of data” during its annual training meeting for organic certifiers held in January in San Antonio, Texas.

USDA NOP accreditation allows the Department of Plant Industry, a unit of Clemson’s Regulatory Services, to certify organic operations in the three major categories: crops, livestock and processing.

This certification guarantees — through verification, inspection and record keeping — that what is sold as organic is following federal regulations.

“Better data deters fraud by making it faster for investigators to identify higher risk activities and focus additional enforcement resources,” said Jennifer Tucker, who heads the USDA National Organic Program.

Stephen Nix, manager of Clemson’s Organic Certification Program, said certification seeks to verify the maintenance of organic integrity throughout the entire production process, from the growing environment to the sale of an organic product.

Meg Williamson
In addition to issuing organic certification, Clemson Regulatory Services helps safeguard the health of South Carolina’s crops, forests and landscape plants through the departments of Plant Industry and Pesticide Regulation and laboratories like the Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic, led by Meg Williamson (photo).

“We have to be thorough in order to ensure that farms are meeting federal requirements in order to use the organic label,” Nix said. “But we also try to ensure that we offer our certification service at a manageable expense as a public service to our South Carolina’s agricultural industry.”

USDA reported the number of certified organic operations worldwide grew to 44,896 in 2019, a 4.4 percent increase over 2018. Federal regulations require the annual posting of a set of basic facts about certified operations into the USDA Organic Integrity database.

Clemson’s Organic Certification Program was honored as having “significantly exceeded the minimum requirements by supplying additional detail on their certified operations and submitting updates on a rolling basis throughout the year,” Tucker said.

“We appreciate this kind of recognition not only for the hard work of our organic certification, but for the diligence that South Carolina’s agricultural producers have put into delivering a high-quality organic product to the public,” said Clemson Regulatory Services Director Steve Cole. “Considering all the nationwide — indeed, worldwide — effort that is devoted to the organic segment of the agriculture industry, we are gratified to be considered the cream of the crop.”

Clemson Regulatory Services is a state agency designated to safeguard the health of South Carolina’s crops, forests and landscape plants. Its four units include plant industry, pesticide regulation, plant and pest diagnostic clinic and homeland security:

USDA reported the number of certified organic operations worldwide grew to 44,896 in 2019, a 4.4 percent increase over 2018.
  • Plant Industry functions include nursery inspection, survey and eradication of invasive plant and pest species, fertilizer and seed regulation, and organic certification.
  • Pesticide Regulation is responsible for licensing pest management professionals and pesticide applicators, analyzing and registering pesticide products, and investigating pesticide misuse cases.
  • The Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic identifies plant diseases, insect pests and weeds for regulatory action, as well as for the public in collaboration with Clemson Extension agents.
  • Homeland Security protects the state’s agricultural and food crops against agroterrorism or other catastrophic events.

Regulatory Services also houses Clemson’s Agricultural Service Laboratory, which conducts soil tests and analyses plant tissue, water, feed and forage.



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