The USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) on Tuesday posted nine decisions that denied appeals by seven certified organic operations and two certification agencies.
The verdicts, representing the first of 2020, were handed down by Bruce Summers, administrator of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which oversees the NOP.
One of those verdicts involved sustainable food and agriculture certification group A Greener World (AGW), which had applied to the NOP in November 2017 to become an accredited organic certifier.
Terrebonne, Ore.-based AGW, which is funded by public donations and membership, already administers the following food certification labels: Certified Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Grassfed by AGW, Certified Non-GMO by AGW and the recently launched Salmon Welfare Certified by AGW.
In March 2019, the NOP denied AGW accreditation as a USDA-accredited certifying agent. AGW then filed an appeal in April 2019.
In denying the appeal, Summers said: “AGW’s noncompliances are extensive; touch on various areas of a certifier’s duties; and go to the core of an entity being able to provide certification services and comply with the organic regulations.”
However, AGW may apply for accreditation again at any time, said Summers in his May 11 decision. Summers also gave AGW 30 days to request an administrative hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.
AGW’s director of communications, Emily Moose, provided the following statement to Sustainable Food News:
“After nearly three years of working on this, we are incredibly disappointed at this latest decision. We are confident that as an established, ISO/IEC Guide 17065-accredited certifier we meet all of the requirements to become an NOP-accredited certifier — and more. As the record shows, we have been incredibly flexible and responsive when asked for clarification, but it appears none of this was taken into consideration at appeal. At this time we are evaluating our options and will continue to focus on offering our other high-integrity certifications to producers across the globe.”
Meanwhile, the NOP also reported that Summers has denied an appeal of suspension by Certisys, an organic certification agency based in Brussels, Belgium.
Certisys was first accredited by the NOP in February 2007. Its most recent accreditation certificate was issued by the NOP in February 2017. However, three months earlier, the NOP issued to Certisys a Notice of Noncompliance and Proposed Suspension of Accreditation, stating that the company “has failed to demonstrate its ability to fully comply with and implement its USDA organic certification program pursuant to the USDA organic regulations.”
Then, in May 2019, NOP issued a Noncompliance Report detailing multiple noncompliance findings of a recent on-site, mid-term audit of Certisys, which found nine new noncompliances showing that Certisys’ certification personnel “continue to lack the knowledge necessary to implement a USDA organic certification program. The noncompliances illustrate a systemic failure of Certisys’ certification system,” said NOP.
Certisys filed an appeal in December. But Summers’ May 14 decision denied the appeal and Certisys was suspended as an organic certifier. However, Certisys may apply for reinstatement of its accreditation at any time, Summers said.
The other seven denials of appeals posted by the NOP on Monday include: