Ask an Inspector: Why does certification cost so much?

Listening is one of the key skills an effective inspector needs to develop. I like listening, although it’s often a challenge to hear what is really being said or asked. I am always happy to listen to your questions, and here in the pages of The Canadian Organic Grower, I plan to provide some answers.

During inspections, professional conduct dictates that certain questions not be answered; confidentiality must always be respected. When inspectors are under contract with a specific certifier, they can only answer questions that help with the application and understanding of the relevant organic standards, or the specific certifier’s process. When speaking with your inspector, try to frame your questions in terms of the standards; you may well receive a more in-depth answer than she/he would otherwise have been able to share.

Inspectors are not allowed to consult during an inspection. We can’t give you a list of pros and cons of your certifier options. Instead, on these pages I hope to continue the wide ranging discussions that have come up during my fieldwork.

Why does certification cost so much? One common question is why organic certification costs so much. The expenses involved in having a trained inspector travel to your establishment, review your organic system plan and paperwork, and write a report for the certification committee represent a relatively small part of the total expense. Most organic certifiers incur costs in maintaining offices and staff to meet client needs, and in managing promotion and education.

Also, all organic certifiers in Canada need to be accredited by the Canadian Organic Office of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Just as the certifiers verify that organic operators follow their organic system plan, accreditors verify that certifiers are doing what they say they will do (i.e. follow their own quality control manuals). For international trade, many certifiers are also accredited by the International Organic Accreditation Service and the USDA’s National Organic Program. Two provinces, Quebec and British Columbia, have historically helped cover the cost of accreditation by serving as accreditors themselves for certifiers within their borders and underwriting the expenses. This has supported the growth of organic agriculture in their provinces.

Some Canadian certifiers have been able to drop the expense of NOP accreditation now that we have an equivalency agreement with the USDA-NOP. Because most certifiers pass on the expense of doing business to their clients, the more costly the accreditations needed for international trade, the more expensive the certification costs are.

Conformity verification bodies conduct Canadian accreditations for the Canadian Organic Office. Check out our COG website (www.cog.ca) for a listing of the current CVBs and certifiers active in Canada. CVBs may differ in some of their policies and approaches, but those approved by the COO have been deemed to be substantially equivalent. Some of the variations between certifiers exist because of the differences between their accreditation bodies or CVBs.

Perhaps now you can see why some questions don’t fit easily into the time frame or discussion parameters of an organic inspection. Send me your questions; I’ll listen and work to provide answers.

Check out the COG website for a listing of the current CVBs and certifiers active in Canada.

Send your questions to Janine (at) rrcc.ca.

 

Send your questions to: The Canadian Organic Grower Magazine

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This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada.

This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada.

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