Oversight Update: Certifier Exits and Appeals Process

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service national organic program organic insider

Oversight Update:
Certifier Exits and Appeals Process

Organic certification relies on a robust network of third-party USDA-accredited organic certifiers to certify and oversee organic farms and businesses. Consistent and effective implementation of the USDA organic regulations by these certifiers is critical to maintaining fair and consistent competition across organic producers.

Sometimes, certifiers decide to partially or fully exit organic certification. For example, they may decide that they no longer have the oversight capability or administrative capacity to certify in a specific country, or provide services in a particular certification area (like livestock or multi-ingredient processing).  In other cases, AMS may take enforcement action against a certifier that is not meeting requirements.

When AMS issues a proposed enforcement action against a certifier, such as a Proposed Suspension of Accreditation, the certifier is allowed to appeal.  USDA then evaluates that appeal – if the appeal is denied, then an Administrator’s Decision is issued and posted on the AMS website. A decision denying an appeal states that the certifier is to be suspended. If the certifier wishes to further contest the decision, it may request a Hearing in front of an USDA Administrative Law Judge.  The certifier maintains its accreditation through this Hearing process, and may continue to certify and oversee its organic businesses.

If a certifier exits organic certification or narrows its certification services – by its choice or through an enforcement action - its operations need to find a new certifier. Once notified by the certifier or the National Organic Program that a change in accreditation is happening, organic operations have 60 days to apply to a new certifier. The operation maintains organic certification until certified by that new certifier, or until the business surrenders its certification or its certification is suspended or revoked.  While impacted operations need to pay for the cost of recertification, the USDA organic cost share program provides a rebate for a part of these expenses.  

USDA is committed to keeping a level playing field across certifiers. Implementing smooth certifier transitions supports the needs of impacted organic operations, while maintaining strong organic control systems around the world.

Related Resources:

  • NOP Enforcement Activity – Look up recent enforcement actions, including Administrator Decisions and Settlement Agreements
  • Organic Integrity Learning Center – Visit “Certification Administration Essentials – Lesson 6: Administrative Capacity and Certifier Transitions”
  • Certifier Locator – For operations needing a new certifier, look up certifiers operating in different States and countries