U.S. - India Organic Recognition: Transition Questions and Answers

Supply Chain Certification

Q: Our business is a handler and exporter in India. Our suppliers have not yet started applying for direct USDA organic certification with USDA-accredited certifiers. Can we continue to export to the U.S. after the July 12, 2021 deadline?

A: The transition process for operations in India certified to the NOP by APEDA-accredited certifiers applies to the entire supply chain. This means that your suppliers must also have applied for NOP certification with a USDA-accredited certifier and be in the Organic Integrity Database by July 12, 2021. The date of July 12, 2022 is the deadline when all NOP operations in India must have completed the process of becoming directly certified by a USDA-accredited certifier.

The NOP encourages operations to communicate with their suppliers about the need to apply for NOP certification to a USDA-accredited certifier by July 12, 2021, to continue their business with you. After July 12, 2021, to continue accepting products from suppliers, operations will need to use the Organic Integrity Database to verify that any organic supplier is already certified or has applied for organic certification with a USDA-accredited certifier.

USDA Accreditation

Q: If we apply now, will it be possible to attain USDA accreditation by July 12, 2021? Will certification bodies currently working under the India Recognition Arrangement (through APEDA) be fast-tracked for accreditation by USDA?

A: The National Organic Program processes applications for accreditation in the order they are received. Currently, the entire application and onsite assessment process for accreditation can take up to 24 months depending on the NOP audit resources available, the outcome of each assessment (quantity of noncompliances and implementation of sufficient corrective actions), and any travel restrictions.

Organic Integrity Database

Q: How do I get my operation listed in the Organic Integrity Database?

A: The USDA’s Organic Integrity Database (OID) is only used to track organic operations that are certified by a USDA-accredited certifying agent. In the case of the transition away from the U.S.-India recognition, India operations that have applied for certification with a USDA-accredited certifier can also be listed in the database while they are completing the certification process. Operations that are only certified under other schemes such as National Program for Organic Production (NPOP), Canada Organic Regime (COR), etc. cannot be listed in OID.

Q: For an India operation that has applied for certification with a USDA-accredited certifier and is listed in the Organic Integrity Database as “Applied; APEDA Certified,” why does the listing not include the operation’s certified products?

A: The Organic Integrity Database lists only products that have been certified by a USDA-accredited certifier. Therefore, an operation’s listing will include certified products only after the operation has been certified by a USDA-accredited certifier. To confirm the certification status of the operation’s products while the operation is still under the control of an APEDA-accredited certifier, consult the operation’s current organic certificate issued by the APEDA-accredited certifier.

Allowance for Non-Organic Feed

Q: Is there an allowance to feed organic chickens non-organic feed if there are shortages in organic feed?

A: The NOP “temporary variance” process allows operators to request exceptions to some USDA organic requirements through their certifying agent. However, it is long-standing published policy and practice that temporary variances may not be granted for feeding non-organic feed to organic livestock. This is stated in the NOP2606 Instruction on Temporary Variances in the NOP Handbook (pdf) (bottom of page 1). This type of formal and informal request has been submitted for dairy animals in the past due to drought, and has been rejected each time. The use of only organic feed for organic animals is a core expectation for consumers, and is essential to maintaining a fair and competitive market for organic producers.

Label Use-up

Q: Can operations continue to use existing supplies of labels approved by an APEDA-accredited certifier (under the India Recognition Arrangement) identifying the APEDA-accredited certifier as the certifier of the product after certification with a USDA-accredited certifier?

A: Certifiers may choose to allow the use-up of existing supplies of labels identifying the APEDA-accredited certifier on product exported through July 12, 2022. Certifiers that choose to approve the use-up of existing label supplies must do the following:

  • Verify existing supplies of labels identifying the prior certifier;
  • Review the existing label(s) for full compliance with the USDA organic regulations;
  • To prevent consumer confusion when approving label(s) for use-up, in the Organic Integrity Database certifiers should note in the Additional Information column of the certified operation’s listing, “Previously certified organic by [Name of APEDA-accredited Certifier]”. Applicants that have been Suspended by an APEDA-accredited Certifier

Q: If an operation’s NOP certification has been suspended by an APEDA-accredited certifier, does the operation need to go through the reinstatement process?

A: Operations that have been suspended by an APEDA-accredited certifier and are applying for USDA organic certification with a USDA-accredited certifier do not need to undergo the Reinstatement process. However, certifiers must require the operation to provide the information required by § 205.501(c) to ensure that the operation fully discloses its previous certification history. Additionally, per the requirements of § 205.402(a)(3), certifiers should verify during its review of the operation’s application whether the operation has submitted documentation to support the correction of any noncompliances identified by the APEDA-accredited certifier.

Residue Testing

Q: What actions should certifiers take if the residue test results from a sample collection of an applicant currently certified by an APEDA-accredited certifier indicates a detection?

A: Certifiers should follow the instructions and steps outlined in NOP 2613 Responding to Results from Pesticide Residue Testing. That Instruction describes the appropriate actions based on the findings and any subsequent investigation. Possible outcomes may include a notice of noncompliance; the finding that the product may not be sold, labeled or represented as organic; additional investigative steps; and/or a denial of certification. Certifiers are to forward any notices of non-compliance and notices of denial of certification to the applicant’s existing APEDA-accredited certifier and APEDA, which is the government agency responsible for the oversight of that certifier and operation during this transition period.

COR Certified Products

Q: Can product from India that is certified organic under the Canada Organic Regime (COR) be exported to the United States as organic?

A: The United States has an organic equivalence arrangement with Canada. This allows COR-certified products that are certified in accordance with the terms of the U.S.-Canada equivalence arrangement to be exported to the United States. The equivalence arrangement does not mean, however, that these products are certified to the NOP standards. These products must be accompanied by a final TraceNet transaction certificate to be considered organic.

Indian organic businesses may be certified by multiple certifiers certifying to different standards to meet different export market requirements. This is the case in many countries. Specific questions about new or ongoing APEDA organic certification to the NPOP/NOP or COR certification need to be directed to those governments.

U.S. Products Going to India

Q: Recently, India has stopped giving clearance to USDA organic products being imported into that country. Why is USDA organic product being stopped and when will India begin allowing it back into its market?

A: The NOP is aware that India has begun stopping some imports of USDA organic product. We have contacted APEDA and they report that this is in accordance with India’s Organic Food Regulation which requires products to comply with India’s national organic standards or be produced under a standard recognized as equivalent. India has not recognized the NOP as equivalent. As a result, exporters of U.S. organic products may continue to encounter challenges sending products to India. We encourage exporters with questions about this issue to contact APEDA directly or USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) office in India.

Updated: June 22, 2021