Certification for Nursery and Greenhouse Production
Participants benefit from the FA Sustainability Certification Program in a variety of ways, depending on the crops or food items they produce and their skill in marketing products as Food Alliance Certified.
Our clients report choosing Food Alliance certification to:
- be acknowledged for a commitment to environmental and social responsibility;
- address buyers' concerns for social and environmental responsibility;
- differentiate and add value to products;
- receive guidance to help the operation be more environmentally and socially responsible;
- protect and enhance the brand;
- access niche market opportunities;
- increase customer loyalty.
Clients accrue the greatest value from certification when they build marketing and sales strategies that feature their sustainability story backed by Food Alliance certification.
Interested in Sustainability Certification for your operation?
1. Read the Sustainability Standard and Evaluation Tool
Nursery producers interested in pursuing Food Alliance Sustainability Certification should first read the FA Sustainability Standard for Nursery and Greenhouse Operations (PDF) and be familiar with the pertinent evaluation criteria and certification requirements outlined in the FA Evaluation Tool for Nursery and Greenhouse Operations.
The second step is to fill out the Application for Certification of Nursery and Greenhouse Operations (PDF). The application may also be requested by mail. Complete, sign and date the application, contractual agreement, and licensing agreement (if applicable). Your application deposit ($400 for producers) must be submitted with your application in order for your application to be processed. Food Alliance will review the returned application to ensure it is complete. All documents will then be sent to our certification agency, International Certification Services (ICS).
The third step of the process is to host an inspection. ICS assigns your application to a qualified Food Alliance inspector with experience in your particular production system. During the on-site visit, the inspector will verify the information presented in your application and assess your management practices. Your inspector will contact you to set up your inspection visit.
4. Review of Inspection Results
The fourth step is a review of the inspection results. During the inspection, your Food Alliance inspector uses the evaluation criteria found in relevant Food Alliance inspection tools to assess your management practices. Following the inspection, the completed inspection tools and inspection documentation are submitted to ICS. Based on the inspection findings, ICS reviewers determine if Food Alliance requirements have been met.
- If the reviewer determines requirements have been met, an Inspection Response Form is issued which lists suggestions for continual improvement. You will be asked to complete and return the Inspection Response Form to ICS, indicating your agreement to implement the suggested improvements. Once improvement suggestions are finalized and the reviewer issues final approval, Food Alliance certification is issued.
- If the reviewer determines requirements have not been fully met or additional information is needed, the reviewer will contact you to request additional information and/or assign certification conditions (listed on the Inspection Response Form).
- If the reviewer determines certification cannot be issued, you will be sent the inspection review findings, with an explanation of the “certification denied” decision.
The fifth step is the issuance of a certification letter. Upon final approval, ICS will issue your Food Alliance certification letter. If you are certified as a “Contract Producer or Handler” through another Food Alliance certified entity (e.g. a Food Alliance Certified producer group, grower cooperative, or processing facility), it is your responsibility to provide a copy of your certification letter to the certified entity (called the certificate holder) through which you are certified. If you are certified independently and will be engaging in a licensing agreement to market Food Alliance certified product(s), Food Alliance will contact you to complete some final steps prior to issuing your Food Alliance certification certificate.
6. Food Alliance Certification Certificate, Licensing Agreement, and Label Approval (for independent producers and marketers of Food Alliance certified products)
The final step in the certification process is the issuance of a certificate number and a Food Alliance Certification Certificate. Food Alliance will assign certificate holders a certificate number and will issue an official Food Alliance certificate which lists products on which certification claims are approved. Food Alliance will countersign the licensing agreement submitted with your application. A copy of the licensing agreement, certification certificate, and licensing fee invoice will be mailed to you. You will also be sent information on Food Alliance labeling rules, certification seal usage, and certification claims guidance. All product labels and/or marketing materials asserting Food Alliance certification claims or using the Food Alliance certification seal must be approved prior to use.
7. Continuing Certification
All Food Alliance certified operations will be sent an Annual Update form in January of each year which must be completed and returned to ICS. All Food Alliance certificate holders (producers & handlers) must report sales of Food Alliance certified products annually, and pay calculated licensing fees according to the agreed upon invoicing schedule. Additionally, all Food Alliance certified producers must update their application and be re-inspected once every 3 years. Food Alliance certified handlers must update their application and be re-inspected on an annual basis.
Inspection and licensing fees are assessed as follows.
Food Alliance certified nurseries are inspected once every three (3) years. The inspection fee for nursery operations is the actual cost of inspection (inspector’s time plus travel expense), plus an administrative fee. A $400 deposit is due at the time of application, and the balance of the inspection fee is invoiced upon issue of the inspection report. Inspection fees will vary depending upon location, number of production sites, complexity of the operation, etc. A cost estimate of the inspection fee will be provided upon request.
Independent nursery operations pay an annual licensing fee based on a percentage of the company’s gross annual sales.
The licensing fee percentage is as follows:
- Less than $100,000 - $100 flat fee
- Fee on sales from $100,000 - $1,000,000 - 0.1%
- Fee on sales over $1,000,000 - 0.05%
LICENSING FEE CAP: $5,000 per year
Food Alliance licensing fees are applicable to the upcoming year. Billing options are offered: fees are billable annually, semi-annually, or quarterly.