USDA Pulls Plug on Organic Certification Agent

December 19th, 2008

The National Organic Program (NOP) announced on December 19 that they have revoked the accreditation of California Crop Improvement Association. Auditing of the organic certifier had identified 10 deficiencies, of which CCIA was able to correct only four in the past year.

“We are pleased that the NOP is taking its oversight of the nation’s certifiers more seriously,” said Will Fantle, Research Director for The Cornucopia Institute.

The nation’s 55 organic certification agents are the backbone of organic food and agriculture, guaranteeing that federal organic rules and regulations are fully, fairly and uniformly applied.

Fantle noted that two independent audits of the USDA, released in the past few years, harshly criticized the agency for failing to adequately monitor the activities of organic certifiers and ensure that certifiers were properly performing their duties. This oversight directive is one of the two key responsibilities given by Congress to the USDA.

One key deficiency found by the NOP that led to the revocation of CCIA’s accreditation was a lack of personnel with the “expertise for the certification of livestock operations.” The certifier also failed to require clients to keep updated organic production and/or handling system plans – these are essential to the annual review of certified organic operations.

The NOP is requesting that any organic operations using CCIA as their certifier quickly seek a new accredited certification agent. CCIA is barred from seeking reinstatement from the USDA for a period of three years.

Passage of the Farm Bill in 2008 provided new funds for the badly understaffed NOP and some of the funding has been used to hire additional enforcement personnel at the Program.

For more details on the CCIA revocation, visit the National Organic Program’s news page.

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