“Success isn’t about the end result, it’s about what you learn along the way.” ~Vera Wang
Featured Topic: Attracting and Keeping Organic Inspectors
For over 30 years, the International Organic Inspectors Association has been at the forefront of addressing issues and concerns relevant to organic inspectors, providing quality inspector training, and promoting consistency and integrity in the organic certification process. We recently chatted with IOIA’s Executive Director, Margaret Scoles, about some of the challenges in fostering a well-qualified pool of organic inspectors.
With the new Strengthening Organic Enforcement regulations coming up in March 2024, what are you doing to bolster the ranks of qualified organic inspectors?
Robust apprenticeship is the key to ensuring qualified inspectors—we can’t afford to have people learn on the job. Because lack of apprenticeships and mentors are two of the hurdles that people face, International Organic Inspectors Association is partnering with Accredited Certifiers Association to do a one-on-one mentorship pilot program this summer with National Organic Program funding. By the end of October, we’ll have a job task analysis on what it takes to be a mentor. Experienced inspectors often shy away from mentoring because they have not been paid; it’s time that work is acknowledged in a tangible way. The job task analysis will move us a step closer to accessing public funding to support formal apprenticeship.
IOIA was also very involved in five of the projects the NOP funded to build human capital. We developed an intensive apprenticeship model, created a recruitment video that is now in the Organic Integrity Learning Center, and generated materials about organic inspection for career advisors.
What could others in the supply chain (farmers, processors, importers, exporters, distributors, etc.) do to help ensure there are enough well qualified organic inspectors available to handle the increasing workload?
Industry has stepped up to sponsor training. As one example, Organic Valley’s Farmers Advocating for Organic grant program sponsored intensive apprenticeship training for livestock inspectors. We’d love to see more of that.
We need to do more recruitment and more advertising of what we do. Most of the people who became inspectors learned about the career from friends and family who were inspectors. We need to make our case better for why this is a good career. Sharing the Become An Organic Inspector video that IOIA created with Oregon Tilth as part of the NOP’s efforts to build human capital would help.
What else is important for the organic community to understand about the challenges of attracting, training and retaining organic inspectors in the age of SOE?
What we need is experience, and we’re not doing well enough at retaining that experience. It’s important to recognize the value of a good inspection and the risk if we don’t retain experience. The cost of a bad inspection is harm to the reputation of all organic products. Professional credentialing is currently lacking and IOIA believes it could also help improve quality and retain experience.
Margaret Scoles serves as Executive Director of the International Organic Inspectors Association, maintaining the IOIA office in Montana since 1999. She has over 30 years of organic inspection experience, including inspection of farms, livestock, and processors and has been training organic inspectors since 1989. A founding board member of IOIA (1991-1992), she is a respected leader in the organic community. Margaret currently serves as a board member and treasurer for IFOAM North America.
Organic Regulatory Updates
More New Organic Integrity Learning Center Courses
- Especially for handlers and processors, “Keep It Organic When Handling and Processing” is one of the newest courses on the National Organic Program’s Organic Integrity Learning Center.The course introduces elements of certification, including types of handling processes, product labeling categories and composition requirements, facility pest management, sanitation, commingling risks and prevention.
- “Livestock Traceability” focuses on the role of livestock traceability within the USDA organic control system and introduces ways to strengthen organic integrity and identify potential fraud.
Organic Integrity Learning Center courses are free and open to all.
Strengthening Organic Enforcement Deadline Countdown
March 19, 2024 is the compliance date for the Strengthening Organic Enforcement regulations. That’s just 216 days, or 30 weeks and 6 days, away. There’s no time to lose, especially as certifiers are likely to get busier as the deadline approaches. If you or your supply chain partners have need for additional support in getting ready, let us know.
Fall NOSB Meeting Agenda and Public Comment
Keep an eye open for the announcement for the Fall National Organic Standards Board Agenda and opportunity to sign up for public comment. Typically, these are announced about two months prior to the meeting date, so expect it toward the end of August. Remember that the limited number of 3-minute speaking slots go quickly! Information about the meeting in Providence, Rhode Island in late October can be found here.
Inside the Beltway
Organic Livestock Welfare Regulations at Risk
In a move that would effectively block the adoption of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards (OLPS), Congressman Keith Self (R-Texas) offered an amendment to the House Agriculture Appropriations bill to prohibit agriculture appropriation funds from being used to write, prepare, or publish, implement, or enforce the proposed rule. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is urging Congress to oppose Self’s amendment to stop the advancement of organic animal welfare regulations, calling the effort unjust and unwarranted and part of a broader attempt to dismantle the National Organic Program. The OLPS regulations have been under discussion and review for over twenty years and are widely supported by the organic sector and the public at large. Wolf & Associates has signed on to the Organic Trade Association’s industry letter and has requested that our federal legislators oppose the Self amendment.
European Union Report Examines Organic Imports
Using charts and graphs, “EU imports of organic agri-food products” looks at changes in organic imports from 2021 to 2022, including product types, importing countries and volume of products. Overall, the volume of organic imported agricultural products fell 5.1% thanks to reduced imports of fruit and vegetables, sugar, olive and palm oils, sunflower seed and pet food. Increases in soybeans, oilcake, citrus fruit, rice, and honey were not enough to balance the decline. About 98% of organic imports are commodities and primary products. Olive oil remains the imported organic product with the largest market share compared to imports of non-organic olive oil, with about 21% of imported olive oil as organic.
The Survey Says…
Organic Industry News & Notices
- October 11: 100 Level NOP Processing Input Materials
- November 15: 200 Level NOP Processing Input Materials
- December 13: 100 Level NOP Crop Input Materials