Farmers' Guide to Organic Contracts

eOrganic author:

Amanda Heyman, Farmers' Legal Action Group

The Farmers’ Guide to Organic Contracts can help farmers evaluate, negotiate, and manage contract agreements with buyers of organic farm products. It was written to help farmers make informed decisions at every stage of the contract relationship.

The organic sector uses written contracts at a much higher rate than the conventional agricultural sector. However, prior to the guide’s publication, organic farmers had little independent, reliable legal information available to them when presented with, or when proposing a marketing contract for organic crops, dairy, livestock, or other organic farm products.

This accessible legal guide includes:

  • An overview of contract laws important to farmers
  • A Quick Organic Contract Checklist and practical toolkit farmers can use to review and negotiate contract offers
  • Highlighted sections illustrating how federal organic regulations interact with organic contracts
  • Examples and discussion of over 100 types of organic contract provisions
  • Detailed information about solving the types of contract disputes that commonly arise in the organic market.

The Farmers’ Guide to Organic Contracts can assist farmers with all types of agricultural contracts, but the guide’s primary purpose is to serve farm operations certified as organic under U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) regulations. Specific suggestions and information for certified organic operations are highlighted throughout the guide, which features a color-coded symbol system designed to enhance reader understanding. 

Farmers can use the guide as a helpful reference tool to answer questions related to organic contracts. The guide’s main Table of Contents, Quick Organic Contract Checklist, and individual chapter tables of contents allow readers to easily find topics of interest. Furthermore, each chapter’s table of contents highlights some of the useful contract-related tips found throughout the guide.

This project was supported by the Organic Agricultural Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) program of the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Grant Number (2010-51300-21445).

Published December 10, 2012

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.