Audit finds flaws in National Organic Program

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags National organic program

Enforcement and compliance problems continue to plague the National Organic Program (NOP) according to an audit report from the Office of Inspector General at the USDA.

The audit report acknowledged that improvements have been made to the program to resolve internal conflicts and handle complaints but concluded that major areas of concern remain.

A total of 14 recommendations were made to NOP officials to improve program administration and internal controls.


The audit report identified a need to improve enforcement procedures to determine what actions should be taken to deal with program violators and then resolve issues in a reasonable timeframe.

It identified cases where enforcement actions were issued and then the NOP failed to monitor operations to ensure compliance.

On one occasion a company signed a compliance agreement that it would not apply for or receive organic certification for 5 years and then continued to market its product as organic.

And on other occasions NOP officials failed to resolve complaints in a reasonable time frame; 19 complaints since 2004 went unresolved for an average of about 3 years.

Other recommendations

The audit report also recommended that oversight of certifying agents and operations be strengthened. One of the reasons for this is that investigations revealed that certifying agents did not have consistent criteria for determining whether instances of non-compliance were major or minor.

Another conclusion of the report was that the Californian State Organic Program (SOP) is not equipped with the compliance and enforcement procedures to properly comply with the requirements of the NOP. The audit report recommended that NOP implement a plan for gaining compliance from California’s SOP.

Responding to the report, the USDA Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS), which oversees the NOP, agreed with the findings.

Related topics Regulation Organics

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