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Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

e-CFR Data is current as of April 22, 2014

Title 7: Agriculture
PART 205—NATIONAL ORGANIC PROGRAM


Subpart F—Accreditation of Certifying Agents


Contents
§205.500   Areas and duration of accreditation.
§205.501   General requirements for accreditation.
§205.502   Applying for accreditation.
§205.503   Applicant information.
§205.504   Evidence of expertise and ability.
§205.505   Statement of agreement.
§205.506   Granting accreditation.
§205.507   Denial of accreditation.
§205.508   Site evaluations.
§205.509   Peer review panel.
§205.510   Annual report, recordkeeping, and renewal of accreditation.
§§205.511-205.599   [Reserved]

§205.500   Areas and duration of accreditation.

(a) The Administrator shall accredit a qualified domestic or foreign applicant in the areas of crops, livestock, wild crops, or handling or any combination thereof to certify a domestic or foreign production or handling operation as a certified operation.

(b) Accreditation shall be for a period of 5 years from the date of approval of accreditation pursuant to §205.506.

(c) In lieu of accreditation under paragraph (a) of this section, USDA will accept a foreign certifying agent's accreditation to certify organic production or handling operations if:

(1) USDA determines, upon the request of a foreign government, that the standards under which the foreign government authority accredited the foreign certifying agent meet the requirements of this part; or

(2) The foreign government authority that accredited the foreign certifying agent acted under an equivalency agreement negotiated between the United States and the foreign government.

§205.501   General requirements for accreditation.

(a) A private or governmental entity accredited as a certifying agent under this subpart must:

(1) Have sufficient expertise in organic production or handling techniques to fully comply with and implement the terms and conditions of the organic certification program established under the Act and the regulations in this part;

(2) Demonstrate the ability to fully comply with the requirements for accreditation set forth in this subpart;

(3) Carry out the provisions of the Act and the regulations in this part, including the provisions of §§205.402 through 205.406 and §205.670;

(4) Use a sufficient number of adequately trained personnel, including inspectors and certification review personnel, to comply with and implement the organic certification program established under the Act and the regulations in subpart E of this part;

(5) Ensure that its responsibly connected persons, employees, and contractors with inspection, analysis, and decision-making responsibilities have sufficient expertise in organic production or handling techniques to successfully perform the duties assigned.

(6) Conduct an annual performance evaluation of all persons who review applications for certification, perform on-site inspections, review certification documents, evaluate qualifications for certification, make recommendations concerning certification, or make certification decisions and implement measures to correct any deficiencies in certification services;

(7) Have an annual program review of its certification activities conducted by the certifying agent's staff, an outside auditor, or a consultant who has expertise to conduct such reviews and implement measures to correct any noncompliances with the Act and the regulations in this part that are identified in the evaluation;

(8) Provide sufficient information to persons seeking certification to enable them to comply with the applicable requirements of the Act and the regulations in this part;

(9) Maintain all records pursuant to §205.510(b) and make all such records available for inspection and copying during normal business hours by authorized representatives of the Secretary and the applicable State organic program's governing State official;

(10) Maintain strict confidentiality with respect to its clients under the applicable organic certification program and not disclose to third parties (with the exception of the Secretary or the applicable State organic program's governing State official or their authorized representatives) any business-related information concerning any client obtained while implementing the regulations in this part, except as provided for in §205.504(b)(5);

(11) Prevent conflicts of interest by:

(i) Not certifying a production or handling operation if the certifying agent or a responsibly connected party of such certifying agent has or has held a commercial interest in the production or handling operation, including an immediate family interest or the provision of consulting services, within the 12-month period prior to the application for certification;

(ii) Excluding any person, including contractors, with conflicts of interest from work, discussions, and decisions in all stages of the certification process and the monitoring of certified production or handling operations for all entities in which such person has or has held a commercial interest, including an immediate family interest or the provision of consulting services, within the 12-month period prior to the application for certification;

(iii) Not permitting any employee, inspector, contractor, or other personnel to accept payment, gifts, or favors of any kind, other than prescribed fees, from any business inspected: Except, That, a certifying agent that is a not-for-profit organization with an Internal Revenue Code tax exemption or, in the case of a foreign certifying agent, a comparable recognition of not-for-profit status from its government, may accept voluntary labor from certified operations;

(iv) Not giving advice or providing consultancy services, to certification applicants or certified operations, for overcoming identified barriers to certification;

(v) Requiring all persons who review applications for certification, perform on-site inspections, review certification documents, evaluate qualifications for certification, make recommendations concerning certification, or make certification decisions and all parties responsibly connected to the certifying agent to complete an annual conflict of interest disclosure report; and

(vi) Ensuring that the decision to certify an operation is made by a person different from those who conducted the review of documents and on-site inspection.

(12)(i) Reconsider a certified operation's application for certification and, if necessary, perform a new on-site inspection when it is determined, within 12 months of certifying the operation, that any person participating in the certification process and covered under §205.501(a)(11)(ii) has or had a conflict of interest involving the applicant. All costs associated with a reconsideration of application, including onsite inspection costs, shall be borne by the certifying agent.

(ii) Refer a certified operation to a different accredited certifying agent for recertification and reimburse the operation for the cost of the recertification when it is determined that any person covered under §205.501(a)(11)(i) at the time of certification of the applicant had a conflict of interest involving the applicant.

(13) Accept the certification decisions made by another certifying agent accredited or accepted by USDA pursuant to §205.500;

(14) Refrain from making false or misleading claims about its accreditation status, the USDA accreditation program for certifying agents, or the nature or qualities of products labeled as organically produced;

(15) Submit to the Administrator a copy of:

(i) Any notice of denial of certification issued pursuant to §205.405, notification of noncompliance, notification of noncompliance correction, notification of proposed suspension or revocation, and notification of suspension or revocation sent pursuant to §205.662 simultaneously with its issuance; and

(ii) A list, on January 2 of each year, including the name, address, and telephone number of each operation granted certification during the preceding year;

(16) Charge applicants for certification and certified production and handling operations only those fees and charges for certification activities that it has filed with the Administrator;

(17) Pay and submit fees to AMS in accordance with §205.640;

(18) Provide the inspector, prior to each on-site inspection, with previous on-site inspection reports and notify the inspector of its decision regarding certification of the production or handling operation site inspected by the inspector and of any requirements for the correction of minor noncompliances;

(19) Accept all production or handling applications that fall within its area(s) of accreditation and certify all qualified applicants, to the extent of its administrative capacity to do so without regard to size or membership in any association or group; and

(20) Demonstrate its ability to comply with a State's organic program to certify organic production or handling operations within the State.

(21) Comply with, implement, and carry out any other terms and conditions determined by the Administrator to be necessary.

(b) A private or governmental entity accredited as a certifying agent under this subpart may establish a seal, logo, or other identifying mark to be used by production and handling operations certified by the certifying agent to indicate affiliation with the certifying agent: Provided, That, the certifying agent:

(1) Does not require use of its seal, logo, or other identifying mark on any product sold, labeled, or represented as organically produced as a condition of certification and

(2) Does not require compliance with any production or handling practices other than those provided for in the Act and the regulations in this part as a condition of use of its identifying mark: Provided, That, certifying agents certifying production or handling operations within a State with more restrictive requirements, approved by the Secretary, shall require compliance with such requirements as a condition of use of their identifying mark by such operations.

(c) A private entity accredited as a certifying agent must:

(1) Hold the Secretary harmless for any failure on the part of the certifying agent to carry out the provisions of the Act and the regulations in this part;

(2) Furnish reasonable security, in an amount and according to such terms as the Administrator may by regulation prescribe, for the purpose of protecting the rights of production and handling operations certified by such certifying agent under the Act and the regulations in this part; and

(3) Transfer to the Administrator and make available to any applicable State organic program's governing State official all records or copies of records concerning the person's certification activities in the event that the certifying agent dissolves or loses its accreditation; Provided, That, such transfer shall not apply to a merger, sale, or other transfer of ownership of a certifying agent.

(d) No private or governmental entity accredited as a certifying agent under this subpart shall exclude from participation in or deny the benefits of the National Organic Program to any person due to discrimination because of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status.

§205.502   Applying for accreditation.

(a) A private or governmental entity seeking accreditation as a certifying agent under this subpart must submit an application for accreditation which contains the applicable information and documents set forth in §§205.503 through 205.505 and the fees required in §205.640 to: Program Manager, USDA-AMS-TMP-NOP, Room 2945—South Building, P.O. Box 96456, Washington, DC 20090-6456.

(b) Following the receipt of the information and documents, the Administrator will determine, pursuant to §205.506, whether the applicant for accreditation should be accredited as a certifying agent.

§205.503   Applicant information.

A private or governmental entity seeking accreditation as a certifying agent must submit the following information:

(a) The business name, primary office location, mailing address, name of the person(s) responsible for the certifying agent's day-to-day operations, contact numbers (telephone, facsimile, and Internet address) of the applicant, and, for an applicant who is a private person, the entity's taxpayer identification number;

(b) The name, office location, mailing address, and contact numbers (telephone, facsimile, and Internet address) for each of its organizational units, such as chapters or subsidiary offices, and the name of a contact person for each unit;

(c) Each area of operation (crops, wild crops, livestock, or handling) for which accreditation is requested and the estimated number of each type of operation anticipated to be certified annually by the applicant along with a copy of the applicant's schedule of fees for all services to be provided under these regulations by the applicant;

(d) The type of entity the applicant is (e.g., government agricultural office, for-profit business, not-for-profit membership association) and for:

(1) A governmental entity, a copy of the official's authority to conduct certification activities under the Act and the regulations in this part,

(2) A private entity, documentation showing the entity's status and organizational purpose, such as articles of incorporation and by-laws or ownership or membership provisions, and its date of establishment; and

(e) A list of each State or foreign country in which the applicant currently certifies production and handling operations and a list of each State or foreign country in which the applicant intends to certify production or handling operations.

§205.504   Evidence of expertise and ability.

A private or governmental entity seeking accreditation as a certifying agent must submit the following documents and information to demonstrate its expertise in organic production or handling techniques; its ability to fully comply with and implement the organic certification program established in §§205.100 and 205.101, §§205.201 through 205.203, §§205.300 through 205.303, §§205.400 through 205.406, and §§205.661 and 205.662; and its ability to comply with the requirements for accreditation set forth in §205.501:

(a) Personnel. (1) A copy of the applicant's policies and procedures for training, evaluating, and supervising personnel;

(2) The name and position description of all personnel to be used in the certification operation, including administrative staff, certification inspectors, members of any certification review and evaluation committees, contractors, and all parties responsibly connected to the certifying agent;

(3) A description of the qualifications, including experience, training, and education in agriculture, organic production, and organic handling, for:

(i) Each inspector to be used by the applicant and

(ii) Each person to be designated by the applicant to review or evaluate applications for certification; and

(4) A description of any training that the applicant has provided or intends to provide to personnel to ensure that they comply with and implement the requirements of the Act and the regulations in this part.

(b) Administrative policies and procedures. (1) A copy of the procedures to be used to evaluate certification applicants, make certification decisions, and issue certification certificates;

(2) A copy of the procedures to be used for reviewing and investigating certified operation compliance with the Act and the regulations in this part and the reporting of violations of the Act and the regulations in this part to the Administrator;

(3) A copy of the procedures to be used for complying with the recordkeeping requirements set forth in §205.501(a)(9);

(4) A copy of the procedures to be used for maintaining the confidentiality of any business-related information as set forth in §205.501(a)(10);

(5) A copy of the procedures to be used, including any fees to be assessed, for making the following information available to any member of the public upon request:

(i) Certification certificates issued during the current and 3 preceding calendar years;

(ii) A list of producers and handlers whose operations it has certified, including for each the name of the operation, type(s) of operation, products produced, and the effective date of the certification, during the current and 3 preceding calendar years;

(iii) The results of laboratory analyses for residues of pesticides and other prohibited substances conducted during the current and 3 preceding calendar years; and

(iv) Other business information as permitted in writing by the producer or handler; and

(6) A copy of the procedures to be used for sampling and residue testing pursuant to §205.670.

(c) Conflicts of interest. (1) A copy of procedures intended to be implemented to prevent the occurrence of conflicts of interest, as described in §205.501(a)(11).

(2) For all persons who review applications for certification, perform on-site inspections, review certification documents, evaluate qualifications for certification, make recommendations concerning certification, or make certification decisions and all parties responsibly connected to the certifying agent, a conflict of interest disclosure report, identifying any food- or agriculture-related business interests, including business interests of immediate family members, that cause a conflict of interest.

(d) Current certification activities. An applicant who currently certifies production or handling operations must submit: (1) A list of all production and handling operations currently certified by the applicant;

(2) Copies of at least 3 different inspection reports and certification evaluation documents for production or handling operations certified by the applicant during the previous year for each area of operation for which accreditation is requested; and

(3) The results of any accreditation process of the applicant's operation by an accrediting body during the previous year for the purpose of evaluating its certification activities.

(e) Other information. Any other information the applicant believes may assist in the Administrator's evaluation of the applicant's expertise and ability.

§205.505   Statement of agreement.

(a) A private or governmental entity seeking accreditation under this subpart must sign and return a statement of agreement prepared by the Administrator which affirms that, if granted accreditation as a certifying agent under this subpart, the applicant will carry out the provisions of the Act and the regulations in this part, including:

(1) Accept the certification decisions made by another certifying agent accredited or accepted by USDA pursuant to §205.500;

(2) Refrain from making false or misleading claims about its accreditation status, the USDA accreditation program for certifying agents, or the nature or qualities of products labeled as organically produced;

(3) Conduct an annual performance evaluation of all persons who review applications for certification, perform on-site inspections, review certification documents, evaluate qualifications for certification, make recommendations concerning certification, or make certification decisions and implement measures to correct any deficiencies in certification services;

(4) Have an annual internal program review conducted of its certification activities by certifying agent staff, an outside auditor, or a consultant who has the expertise to conduct such reviews and implement measures to correct any noncompliances with the Act and the regulations in this part;

(5) Pay and submit fees to AMS in accordance with §205.640; and

(6) Comply with, implement, and carry out any other terms and conditions determined by the Administrator to be necessary.

(b) A private entity seeking accreditation as a certifying agent under this subpart must additionally agree to:

(1) Hold the Secretary harmless for any failure on the part of the certifying agent to carry out the provisions of the Act and the regulations in this part;

(2) Furnish reasonable security, in an amount and according to such terms as the Administrator may by regulation prescribe, for the purpose of protecting the rights of production and handling operations certified by such certifying agent under the Act and the regulations in this part; and

(3) Transfer to the Administrator and make available to the applicable State organic program's governing State official all records or copies of records concerning the certifying agent's certification activities in the event that the certifying agent dissolves or loses its accreditation; Provided, That such transfer shall not apply to a merger, sale, or other transfer of ownership of a certifying agent.

§205.506   Granting accreditation.

(a) Accreditation will be granted when:

(1) The accreditation applicant has submitted the information required by §§205.503 through 205.505;

(2) The accreditation applicant pays the required fee in accordance with §205.640(c); and

(3) The Administrator determines that the applicant for accreditation meets the requirements for accreditation as stated in §205.501, as determined by a review of the information submitted in accordance with §§205.503 through 205.505 and, if necessary, a review of the information obtained from a site evaluation as provided for in §205.508.

(b) On making a determination to approve an application for accreditation, the Administrator will notify the applicant of the granting of accreditation in writing, stating:

(1) The area(s) for which accreditation is given;

(2) The effective date of the accreditation;

(3) Any terms and conditions for the correction of minor noncompliances; and

(4) For a certifying agent who is a private entity, the amount and type of security that must be established to protect the rights of production and handling operations certified by such certifying agent.

(c) The accreditation of a certifying agent shall continue in effect until such time as the certifying agent fails to renew accreditation as provided in §205.510(c), the certifying agent voluntarily ceases its certification activities, or accreditation is suspended or revoked pursuant to §205.665.

§205.507   Denial of accreditation.

(a) If the Program Manager has reason to believe, based on a review of the information specified in §§205.503 through 205.505 or after a site evaluation as specified in §205.508, that an applicant for accreditation is not able to comply or is not in compliance with the requirements of the Act and the regulations in this part, the Program Manager shall provide a written notification of noncompliance to the applicant. Such notification shall provide:

(1) A description of each noncompliance;

(2) The facts upon which the notification of noncompliance is based; and

(3) The date by which the applicant must rebut or correct each noncompliance and submit supporting documentation of each such correction when correction is possible.

(b) When each noncompliance has been resolved, the Program Manager will send the applicant a written notification of noncompliance resolution and proceed with further processing of the application.

(c) If an applicant fails to correct the noncompliances, fails to report the corrections by the date specified in the notification of noncompliance, fails to file a rebuttal of the notification of noncompliance by the date specified, or is unsuccessful in its rebuttal, the Program Manager will provide the applicant with written notification of accreditation denial. An applicant who has received written notification of accreditation denial may apply for accreditation again at any time in accordance with §205.502, or appeal the denial of accreditation in accordance with §205.681 by the date specified in the notification of accreditation denial.

(d) If the certifying agent was accredited prior to the site evaluation and the certifying agent fails to correct the noncompliances, fails to report the corrections by the date specified in the notification of noncompliance, or fails to file a rebuttal of the notification of noncompliance by the date specified, the Administrator will begin proceedings to suspend or revoke the certifying agent's accreditation. A certifying agent who has had its accreditation suspended may at any time, unless otherwise stated in the notification of suspension, submit a request to the Secretary for reinstatement of its accreditation. The request must be accompanied by evidence demonstrating correction of each noncompliance and corrective actions taken to comply with and remain in compliance with the Act and the regulations in this part. A certifying agent whose accreditation is revoked will be ineligible for accreditation for a period of not less than 3 years following the date of such determination.

§205.508   Site evaluations.

(a) Site evaluations of accredited certifying agents shall be conducted for the purpose of examining the certifying agent's operations and evaluating its compliance with the Act and the regulations of this part. Site evaluations shall include an on-site review of the certifying agent's certification procedures, decisions, facilities, administrative and management systems, and production or handling operations certified by the certifying agent. Site evaluations shall be conducted by a representative(s) of the Administrator.

(b) An initial site evaluation of an accreditation applicant shall be conducted before or within a reasonable period of time after issuance of the applicant's “notification of accreditation.” A site evaluation shall be conducted after application for renewal of accreditation but prior to the issuance of a notice of renewal of accreditation. One or more site evaluations will be conducted during the period of accreditation to determine whether an accredited certifying agent is complying with the general requirements set forth in §205.501.

§205.509   Peer review panel.

The Administrator shall establish a peer review panel pursuant to the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) (5 U.S.C. App. 2 et seq.). The peer review panel shall be composed of not less than 3 members who shall annually evaluate the National Organic Program's adherence to the accreditation procedures in this subpart F and ISO/IEC Guide 61, General requirements for assessment and accreditation of certification/registration bodies, and the National Organic Program's accreditation decisions. This shall be accomplished through the review of accreditation procedures, document review and site evaluation reports, and accreditation decision documents or documentation. The peer review panel shall report its finding, in writing, to the National Organic Program's Program Manager.

§205.510   Annual report, recordkeeping, and renewal of accreditation.

(a) Annual report and fees. An accredited certifying agent must submit annually to the Administrator, on or before the anniversary date of the issuance of the notification of accreditation, the following reports and fees:

(1) A complete and accurate update of information submitted pursuant to §§205.503 and 205.504;

(2) Information supporting any changes being requested in the areas of accreditation described in §205.500;

(3) A description of the measures implemented in the previous year and any measures to be implemented in the coming year to satisfy any terms and conditions determined by the Administrator to be necessary, as specified in the most recent notification of accreditation or notice of renewal of accreditation;

(4) The results of the most recent performance evaluations and annual program review and a description of adjustments to the certifying agent's operation and procedures implemented or to be implemented in response to the performance evaluations and program review; and

(5) The fees required in §205.640(a).

(b) Recordkeeping. Certifying agents must maintain records according to the following schedule:

(1) Records obtained from applicants for certification and certified operations must be maintained for not less than 5 years beyond their receipt;

(2) Records created by the certifying agent regarding applicants for certification and certified operations must be maintained for not less than 10 years beyond their creation; and

(3) Records created or received by the certifying agent pursuant to the accreditation requirements of this subpart F, excluding any records covered by §§205.510(b)(2), must be maintained for not less than 5 years beyond their creation or receipt.

(c) Renewal of accreditation. (1) The Administrator shall send the accredited certifying agent a notice of pending expiration of accreditation approximately 1 year prior to the scheduled date of expiration.

(2) An accredited certifying agent's application for accreditation renewal must be received at least 6 months prior to the fifth anniversary of issuance of the notification of accreditation and each subsequent renewal of accreditation. The accreditation of certifying agents who make timely application for renewal of accreditation will not expire during the renewal process. The accreditation of certifying agents who fail to make timely application for renewal of accreditation will expire as scheduled unless renewed prior to the scheduled expiration date. Certifying agents with an expired accreditation must not perform certification activities under the Act and the regulations of this part.

(3) Following receipt of the information submitted by the certifying agent in accordance with paragraph (a) of this section and the results of a site evaluation, the Administrator will determine whether the certifying agent remains in compliance with the Act and the regulations of this part and should have its accreditation renewed.

(d) Notice of renewal of accreditation. Upon a determination that the certifying agent is in compliance with the Act and the regulations of this part, the Administrator will issue a notice of renewal of accreditation. The notice of renewal will specify any terms and conditions that must be addressed by the certifying agent and the time within which those terms and conditions must be satisfied.

(e) Noncompliance. Upon a determination that the certifying agent is not in compliance with the Act and the regulations of this part, the Administrator will initiate proceedings to suspend or revoke the certifying agent's accreditation.

(f) Amending accreditation. Amendment to scope of an accreditation may be requested at any time. The application for amendment shall be sent to the Administrator and shall contain information applicable to the requested change in accreditation, a complete and accurate update of the information submitted pursuant to §§205.503 and 205.504, and the applicable fees required in §205.640.

§§205.511-205.599   [Reserved]



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