Each sector within CQP has a unique set of Program Requirements. These requirements are determined through collaborative work between industry representatives, regulatory agencies, and research institutions. This allows for a set of requirements that reflects business realities, while also requiring that those businesses meet high standards for safety, quality and environmental sustainability.
Before becoming a member of the Commonwealth Quality Program, each prospective member is visited and assessed based on the criteria listed below. After becoming a member, the business is visited every year, or every other year, depending on the sector and the individual member.
Please click on the drop-down menu below to learn more about the Program Requirements for each sector.
To obtain Commonwealth Quality certification, farmers, processors and distributors must be in compliance with all local, state and federal regulations. Commonwealth Quality Producers must also meet all Local Board of Health rules, regulations and requirements.
Furthermore, Commonwealth Quality requires that farmers employ food safety standards that minimize the risk of microbial contamination and food-borne illnesses. This requirement is accomplished through adherence to existing food safety assurance audit programs, such as the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) program, as well as other third party food safety audits, based on the United States Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) guidance document.
To meet sustainability requirements, Commonwealth Quality program participants must adhere to environmentally safe practices outlined in the Massachusetts Best Management Practices (BMPs) documents for Fresh Vegetables and Tree Fruits, as referenced in Exhibit A of the Application package.
To download the Application Package for Produce, please click here.
To become CQP-certified, Landowners and Licensed Timber Harvesters must adhere to the Massachusetts Forest Cutting Practices Act (M.G.L. CH. 132) and follow Best Management Practices (BMPs) that guide environmental responsibility.
Additionally, wood products bearing the Commonwealth Quality seal may only be sourced from forests engaged in long-term management. To qualify, a landowner must certify in a Forest Cutting Plan, their intent to improve the timber harvesting site utilizing science-based forest management techniques that promote healthy trees, protect soil and water quality, enhance wildlife habitat, and maintain recreational opportunities.
Commonwealth Quality program requirements also certify that wood products are not sourced from harvests that convert land to a non-forest or non-agricultural use. This requirement helps guarantee that products carrying the Commonwealth Quality brand support the preservation of working forest land for agriculture, wildlife, and recreation. To download the Application Package for Forestry, please click here.
All CQP aquaculture producers must have valid permits that follow local as well as Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (MA DMF) and the Army Corps of Engineers regulations. Furthermore, all CQP qualifying shellfish species must be native to MA waters and must not be genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). In addition, the use of antibiotics, pesticides, hormones and growth stimulants are prohibited to protect the consumer and the environment.
Furthermore, all CQP producers are encouraged to produce and follow Standard Operating Procedures related to seafood health and safety. CQP products should be tagged prior to landing with required harvester tag information that includes all important information including the time of harvest (or tidal exposure). To further ensure food safety, the highest scoring growers monitor and record air and water temperature at or near the farm site. In addition, a system for starting the temperature reduction process immediately following harvest at the farm above and beyond the local requirements will also ensure a quality product and a high scoring farm.
In terms of sustainability, CQP growers are aware that aquaculture gear may attract other wildlife and manage gear to avoid harming other species that may encounter their operations. This involves providing and maintaining buffer zones or corridors to allow safe passage of wildlife, as well as releasing any animals that may be in the gear when it is maintained. To download the Application Package for Aquaculture, please click here.
Commonwealth Quality requires that lobsters be harvested in accordance with all Division of Marine Fisheries regulations. In addition, dealers who wish to participate in the program must provide documentation to prove their lobsters are harvested in accordance with these regulations.
To participate in Commonwealth Quality, lobstermen must also possess a commercial fishing license issued by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF). Commonwealth Quality certified lobstermen must report landings to the state on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis. Reports must include information about the harvest area and the amount harvested and the disposition of the catch! By supplying this information, harvesters enable local officials to closely monitor stock, ensuring that waters are not overfished.
Commonwealth Quality participants not only adhere to strict regulations enforced by federal, state and local government, they also employ best management practices (BMPs) developed specifically for the program by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) and the Massachusetts Lobstermen's Association. The lobsterman then signs a contract agreeing to the terms and conditions set forth by the Commonwealth Quality Program. To download the Application Package for Lobster, please click here.
All CQP dairy producers must have valid license that follow the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Federal Pasteurization Market Order (PMO). Furthermore, all CQP qualifying dairy farms must be compliant with local boards of health requirements and regulations.
CQP dairies are aware of and avoid harming protected species that may encounter their operations. In addition, CQP regulations require the maintenance of safety equipment to protect the producers, the operation, and the natural environment.
All CQP producers are encouraged to produce and follow Standard Operating Procedures related to dairy health safety. To ensure food safety, a valid copy of registration/certification of audit status must be supplied before receiving CQP-certification.
To download the Application Package for Dairy, please click here.
To qualify for Commonwealth Quality certification, Massachusetts sugarmakers must follow the strictest food safety standards, take steps to ensure that their work in the sugarbush ensures the long term sustainability of the forests they steward, and tap trees here in the Commonwealth.
Safety requirements include regular testing to ensure that maple producers have eliminated equipment that risks introducing lead into their products, that only food-grade equipment is used for producing and storing maple products, and that no allergens are introduced to the products during production.
To promote sustainability, CQ-certified sugarmakers adhere to the State of Massachusetts' best practice guidelines in maintaining their forests, and tap trees using practices to ensure long term sustainability and tree health.
To download the Application Package for Maple, please click here.