How do I become a USDA organic certifying agent?
Thank you for your interest in becoming a certifying agent under the USDA organic regulations. The accreditation process is summarized below. Additional details and information about the accreditation process:
Apply. To begin the path to becoming an NOP-accredited certifying agent, please complete the two forms linked below and follow the submission instructions. Please note that the NOP form should be sent to room 2648.
Desk Audit. As NOP 2000 notes, the initial accreditation processes are handled by the USDA Quality Assurance Division (QAD, formerly the Grading and Verification Division). Per NOP 2000, QAD performs a documentation adequacy review (desk audit) to evaluate the compliance of the applicant’s quality manual with NOP regulatory parameters.
Pre-decisional Assessment. Once QAD has completed the desk audit, the NOP Accreditation Committee makes a recommendation to the Administrator to approve or deny accreditation. As noted above, NOP 2000 provides detailed information about the complete accreditation process, including on-site assessments and continued accreditation.
Costs. A $500 deposit is due at the time of application, which is applied to the assessment costs. Additionally, QAD charges $108 per hour to prepare and conduct the on-site assessment, travel to the site, and write the audit report. Additional costs include per diem (hotel, meals, and any incidentals, based on location) and travel expenses (e.g. airfare, rental vehicles and fuel, parking, tolls, and any other miscellaneous costs), if applicable. QAD makes every effort to keep the costs as low as possible. In 2010, the average cost for the documentation adequacy review was $4,428. The average cost for an on-site assessment of a foreign certifying agent was $24,082. QAD is responsible for collecting payment for the costs described above.
Post-accreditation Requirements. Once approved, the certifying agent will be accredited for five years. To ensure compliance, an additional on-site assessment is conducted around the two and half year mark. Renewing certifying agents will have on-site assessments prior to renewal around the five year mark. These assessments are performed by QAD and are subject to the costs described above.
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