The National Organic Program (NOP), a stand-alone certification program developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), came into effect in October 2002 to regulate organic production, processing and marketing in the US.
NCO has been accredited by the USDA to carry out certification services for the NOP. Under the NOP regulations, all members of the supply chain must be certified to the NOP Standard, i.e all suppliers and handlers of ingredients and/or products that are labelled, sold, or represented.
The certification process is similar, whether your operation is based in, or outside, Australia. To obtain NOP Certification, applicants must develop an annually updated 'Organic System Plan' - in accordance with NOP requirements, which details specific standards for organic management, and for the labelling of product (based on the percentage of organic ingredients in a product).
Operators will need to be able to demonstrate that they are substantially compliant with these requirements prior to an initial inspection. Where non-compliances are noted, or insufficient information is supplied, it is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that such issues are addressed within a defined timeframe. Additionally, any modifications to the System Plan will need to receive approval prior to implementation.
While there is no conversion period in accordance with the NOP requirements, the system is not retrospective. Certification will be granted following point of application and initial positive inspection, provided that at least three years compliance can be demonstrated.
USDA NOP Standards
The USDA NOP Standards (containing standards for primary production, manufacturing and distribution) are your guide to achieving recognised status:
It is essential that you read through the relevant Standards applicable to your operation before submitting an application for certification.
Application & Questionnaire
Making an application for USDA NOP Certification requires the completion of various documents.
In addition to submitting the USDA NOP Application Form and after reading the relevant standards, you will be required to complete a Questionnaire outlining your Organic Management Plan. Information contained within the questionnaire, along with relevant support documentation, will form the basis of your 'NOP Organic Systems Plan'. NCO staff responsible for the administration of the program will work with you to ensure that this essential compliance documentation meets NOP requirements prior to inspection.
There are two relevant Questionnaires: the NOP Organic System Plan (Primary Production) and the NOP Organic Handling Questionnaire (Manufacturing and Distribution). In addition to the Farm Questionnaire, specific information is required to be supplied by Livestock farmers. Similarly, in addition to the Handling Plan, specific information is required for Organic Milk handling.
Inspection & Review
Following the approval of your Organic System Plan, you will receive a letter of confirmation from NCO, naming an inspector who has been allocated to inspect your operation and to verify your approved plan.
Inspections are subcontracted to a wide network of professional, independent and NASAA-trained 'Organic Inspectors' conversant with the requirements of the USDA NOP program. In addition to scheduled inspections, unannounced and additional inspections may be carried out at NCO discretion.
Inspection reports will then be reviewed by NCO's Inspection Review Committee, and a decision made in relation to certification.
USDA NOP Fees & Charges
NCO's fees for USDA NOP certification are competitive, with a pricing structure that serves to underpin the provision of the certification service, facilitating access throughout the world for NASAA-certified products.
Our fee structure comprises an initial application fee and inspection deposit, and annual charges and a levy payment system where applicable.
For further information about USDA NOP certification through NCO, please contact the office.