Our Mission: To address issues and concerns relevant to organic inspectors, to provide quality inspector training, and
to promote consistency and integrity in the organic certification process.
COVID-19 News for Inspectors

IOIA strongly recommends that inspectors do not schedule and conduct inspections at this time. In some high-risk areas, certifiers are beginning to halt on-site inspections. All of the best medical advice is to “Stay home!” and minimize movement and contact. Social Distancing is essential! It is the best solution for slowing down the virus and mitigating the impact. We don’t want to wait until someone gets sick from an inspection or brings the virus to an operation before we act. We believe this is of the utmost urgency. It is our opinion, based on the rapid spread of the virus, that inspectors should, like everyone else, stay home. In our profession, we are highly mobile and we can come into contact with many people in a day or a week. Reduce your contact with other people and restrict your movements. If you choose to do inspections, do no more than one inspection per day and completely shower and clean thoroughly between inspections.


March 27, 2020

On March 13, the CFIA issued notification to the CFIA designated Conformity Verification Bodies (CVBs) and the CFIA accredited Certification Bodies (CBs). This provided assurances that the CFIA has a business continuity plan in place to ensure that despite the absence of employees from the office, it is mostly business as usual for government operations. CFIA has stopped all non-essential travel in Canada and internationally, including conducting the audits under the COR, for the foreseeable future. The CFIA requested the CVBs to take appropriate measures and adjust the CBs’ surveillance activities accordingly to mitigate any health and safety risks. CFIA accredited CBs are asked to assess the risks of continuing certification and establish a documented process. CFIA encouraged the CBs to consider having several options available for the operators and the CB staff in case the situation escalates or improves. The CBs should be flexible and reasonable when developing their plans.

On March 24 CFIA issued Notice to the Canadian organic industry regarding implementation of the Canada Organic Regime during COVID-19 situation. The notice is publicly available on the CFIA website at: https://www.inspection.gc.ca/organic-products/cor-covid-19/eng/1585069067163/1585069146426.


March 23, 2020

Starting on Thursday, March 26, and going forward for the next few weeks, we will be holding weekly “town hall” style conference calls. We will use this time as relevant, to share time together to share and discuss stories and thoughts related to inspecting in the current certification environment. We will also begin sharing our knowledge of technology and methods for best practices for virtual inspections. The ultimate goal of these sessions is to explore trainings on virtual inspections and useful technology. These town hall meetings will be unrecorded and are open to all IOIA inspector members. The trainings are expected to be free [with free-will donation] to IOIA inspector members. Non-members can join for a fee. There is a limit to 100 participants on each of the Town Hall calls.

There are still many more questions than answers. If you have answers, are a tech expert with useful information that you’re willing to share with the membership, or have other skills you think we could use at this time, please contact IOIA.

If you are an inspector member and did not receive details to connect for the call, please email Webgal.

IOIA Town Hall

Thursday, April 2, 2020 and every Thursday thereafter.

New time:

12:30-2:00 (PDT)
1:30 PM – 3:00 PM (MDT)
2:30-4:00 PM (CDT)
3:30-5:00 PM (EDT)

We will be sending a message out to inspectors with the code to join the call.


March 21, 2020

FDA’s approach to on-site inspections during the pandemic:

https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-focuses-safety-regulated-products-while-scaling-back-domestic


March 20, 2020

Several IOIA board and inspector members attended a joint conference call of ACA and IOIA on March 20 regarding Contingency Planning in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. Over 60 persons participated in the call. The IOIA and ACA boards will be meeting in the coming week to discuss how to organize the large number of interested participants into subgroups. IOIA intends to have a Working Group of inspectors that can feed collective input into the larger joint group. Interested? Contact the IOIA office. During this call IOIA urged certifiers to consider advance payments to independent inspectors, or to consider using inspectors to do initial review with reviewers helping to do inspections later. These options would help balance cash flow for inspectors. IOIA updated the group on the current plan to develop basic training in an alternative web-based format to accommodate the participants in our spring trainings. IOIA expects to cancel all of the spring in-person trainings and provide training in this alternative format.

IOIA has received information from the Organic Trade Association and the National Organic Coalition in the US soliciting input on addressing the crisis. IOIA will continue to advocate for independent organic inspectors, who are not currently addressed in the emergency plan for employees who are unable to work due COVID-19. IOIA is also contacting key members of Congress to advocate for organic inspectors and farmers (both organic and non-organic farmers). Small farmers and those who sell to local markets and rely on person-to-person contact will be greatly impacted.

Key emergency funding has been made available in the US. This includes no waiting period for unemployment and expansion of medical leave for employees. Not yet passed is a package that could include direct payments to individuals or couples, plus an additional amount per child. Although the payments are modest, these will help independent contractors and staff inspectors alike. Many inspectors are temporarily not working or working less. This could be a good time to catch up on continuing education. IOIA inspector members are reminded of their annual benefit of a 50% discount on any webinar. We will be happy to do our part and carry your invoice until later in the year if necessary. Our webinar schedule is available at https://www.ioia.net/schedule_list.html.


March 16, 2020

The IOIA Board of Directors met with Jenny Tucker, David Glasgow, and Robert Yang of the National Organic Program on March 16 by conference call.

Key points of that call:

  • Dr. Tucker said that at this time, the NOP is not issuing instruction to certification agencies regarding on site inspections. IOIA is partnering with other organizations in the organic industry to explore compliant solutions that will maintain organic integrity while keeping industry professionals and producers safe.
  • There is no emergency funding available through the NOP to directly alleviate the financial distress caused by independent contractors ceasing inspections either voluntarily or by certifier direction. However, IOIA is exploring various options in an effort to mitigate the financial burden of pausing on site inspections in order to flatten the curve.

Also, on March 16, IOIA was invited to participate in an ACA Working Group on contingency policies for inspections during this time. A large number of certifiers and inspectors have already volunteered within the first day, including Lois Christie, IOIA’s Board Chair. If you are interested, do not hesitate to contact IOIA, but please recognize that there may be a limited number of spots for inspectors. This group will be moving and developing very quickly over the next two weeks. IOIA believes there is a great potential for developing sound practices, such as partial inspections performed virtually followed by a later on-site inspection, either announced or unannounced. This could provide appropriate monitoring of operator compliance, spread out the workload rather than delaying it to be done later all at once, and stabilize income for independent contractor inspectors.

IOIA strongly recommends that inspectors do not schedule and conduct inspections at this time. In some high-risk areas, certifiers are beginning to halt on-site inspections. All of the best medical advice is to “Stay home!” and minimize movement and contact. Social Distancing is essential! It is the best solution for slowing down the virus and mitigating the impact. We don’t want to wait until someone gets sick from an inspection or brings the virus to an operation before we act. We believe this is of the utmost urgency. It is our opinion, based on the rapid spread of the virus, that inspectors should, like everyone else, stay home. In our profession, we are highly mobile and we can come into contact with many people in a day or a week. Reduce your contact with other people and restrict your movements. If you choose to do inspections, do no more than one inspection per day and completely shower and clean thoroughly between inspections.

IOIA will continue to explore financial support mechanisms for independent organic inspectors. If you have ideas, please share them. One option is to seek work as a reviewer. Please see the IOIA Job Board.

The IOIA office is now closed to the public. However, the phone will be staffed during regular office hours. IOIA has cancelled all in-person training events until further notice, including the trainings in South Carolina originally scheduled this week.

Please be safe.
Margaret Scoles
Executive Director


March 15, 2020

IOIA’s Board of Directors called a special meeting on March 15 in response to the current situation with COVID-19. In our profession, inspectors are highly mobile and we come into contact with many people in a day or a week while inspecting. We are concerned about the potential that inspectors could become vectors of the virus or infected during the course of their work. We don’t know how long this situation will last; we are currently in a period of rapid growth in the number of cases and this is of urgent concern.

Here is a link to an article that explains the importance of Social Distancing –
https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/corona-simulator/

The Board made the following decisions:

  1. Create a prominent link on the IOIA website to keep you informed of our COVID -19 related activities. We will post updates here.
  2. Request a meeting of the IOIA and ACA Boards to discuss how to prevent our inspection activities from spreading the virus while protecting the operations we inspect. We were grateful for an immediate response from the ACA voicing a willingness to meet with us and the importance of working together on this issue.
  3. Request a meeting with the National Organic Program. We are already scheduled for a meeting with the Deputy and Assistant Deputy Administrator tomorrow afternoon, March 16. We are grateful for their immediate response to our query.
  4. We will keep you posted to the best of our ability.

    Margaret Scoles
    Executive Director