Certifying agents are private, foreign, or State entities authorized to certify farms or processing facilities to the USDA organic standards. Certifying agents are accredited by the USDA and are located throughout the United States and around the world. Certifying agents are responsible for ensuring that the USDA organic products meet or exceed all organic standards.
Becoming a Certifying Agent
Considering becoming a certifying agent? We invite you to learn more about requirements, accreditation process, and download application materials.
Compliance & Enforcement
USDA organic operations are required to comply with all National Organic Program regulations. If a non?compliance is identified, the certifying agent must notify the operation in writing. If the operation fails to correct the non?compliance, appeal the certifierís decision, or otherwise resolve the problem, the operationís organic certification is suspended or revoked. The distinction between these outcomes depends on the severity of the noncompliance. A suspended operation may not sell or represent their product as organic until it is reinstated in writing. A revoked operation (or a person responsible for one) may not obtain certification for five years. For operations in California, please note that compliance and enforcement is handled by the State Organic Program. Learn more
International Organic Trade
The National Organic Program has trade arrangements with several nations. Certifying agents play a key role in facilitating trade of organic products to and from the United States in accordance with these arrangements. The specific requirements, including additional approval from USDA, vary for each agreement. Learn more
Certifying agents are encouraged to promote the availability of USDA grant programs to U.S.-based producers and handlers. One option, the USDA Organic Certification Cost Share Programs provides non-competitive rebates to cover up to 75% of organic certification costs. State agencies (typically Departments of Agriculture) work with the USDA to administer the program. Learn more
USDA may grant temporary variances from the production and handling requirements of the organic regulations due to: natural disasters declared by the USDA, damage caused by severe weather or other business interruption, or for the purpose of conducting research in organic production or handling. If one or multiple operations meet these criteria, the certifying agent may request temporary variances on the behalf of operations.
The National Organic Program holds periodic training opportunities for certifying agents. We also provide training modules online. Please note that online training modules do not count towards accreditation or certification. Learn more
Annual Reporting Requirements
Certifying agents are required to submit annual reports to NOP on or before the anniversary of their accreditation. As described in NOP 2024, this report must include any changes to a certifying agentís quality system or accreditation program.
While assessing certifying agents, USDA auditors use the following checklists to document:
: Overall compliance
: Specific files reviewed (i.e. personnel files)
: Full file review of individual operation
: Full file review of grower group operation
: Witness audit of individual operation
: Witness audit of grower group operation