We continue to monitor the situation surrounding COVID-19 and we want you to know the health of our employees, inspectors, and our clients are our priority.
Most in-office OneCert staff will continue to telecommute until further notice except for a few key personnel to perform daily duties that cannot be done remotely. We want you to know that our entire team is still available by phone and email during normal business hours (9-5 CDT, Monday through Friday).
OneCert is currently postponing most on-site inspections until area restrictions are lifted and it is safe for us to send inspectors into the field. In the meantime, OneCert will begin conducting remote audits of records for most operations. These audits will enable us to verify ongoing compliance even when on-site inspections are delayed.
At this time OneCert still plans to conduct onsite inspections for all operations this year; however, we are expecting most operations will receive a shorter on site inspection after a remote records audit has been conducted.
The basis for the desk audit is that the USDA organic regulations require you to provide copies of your records during normal business hours:
“Maintain all records applicable to the organic operation for not less than 5 years beyond their creation and allow authorized representatives of the Secretary, the applicable State organic program’s governing State official, and the certifying agent access to such records during normal business hours for review and copying to determine compliance with the Act and the regulations in this part, as provided for in §205.103;”USDA Organic Regulations 7 CFR §205.400(d)
“The certified operation must make such records available for inspection and copying during normal business hours by authorized representatives of the Secretary, the applicable State program’s governing State official, and the certifying agent.”USDA Organic Regulations 7 CFR §205.103(c)
A remote audit of records is performed based on documents and information requested from the client and may be conducted by either an Inspector or a Certification Specialist. The audit will consist of requesting a set of records, reviewing that set of records, and then discussing any questions or concerns with the operation. This may be done when both the client and inspector can look at the relevant records at the same time, but it is not necessary to have the operator “present” throughout the review.
Please note that these remote audits may also be conducted as an unannounced audit, which we are required to continue to conduct for at least 5% of our certified operations. If you are selected for an unannounced desk audit, we will reach out to you and request that documentation be submitted within four hours.
We urge you to be “inspection ready” and prepared to respond promptly to any requests received during normal business hours. Please treat requests and scheduling for remote record audits as seriously as you would an on-site inspection.
We will continue to adjust and update you as our plans develop.
The Accredited Certifiers Association (ACA) and International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA) have been working on an industry-wide pandemic contingency plan, which we hope to share publicly soon. In the meantime, the ACA recommends that certifiers, inspectors, and operations continue to remain inspection-ready and maintain good documentation of their procedures. This will be critical to continued organic integrity during this time, and when travel restrictions are lifted and on-site audits may be rescheduled. Read more ACA updates here.
On May 7th, the Organic Trade Association (OTA), Accredited Certifiers Association (ACA) and International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA) hosted a joint webinar titled Organic Inspections During COVID-19: Challenges & Solutions. Participants learned about the best practices and inspection tools that are being used to conduct inspections and verify compliance while travel restrictions are in place. Certified operators learned how to best prepare for an on-site or remote audit. To view the recording, REGISTER HERE. Find additional Covid-19 resources from the OTA HERE.