COVID-19 News for Inspectors

May 14 - PRESS RELEASE from Accredited Certifiers Association and IOIA

As the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak continues to create travel restrictions which may impact organic certification, the Accredited Certifiers Association (ACA) and the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA) are today releasing an industry-wide pandemic contingency plan, Contingency Plans for Verifying Compliance When On-Site Inspections are not Possible. This “Best Practices” document, which can be found HERE and on the ACA Website, is the result of collaboration of over 125 participants, representing organic certifiers, independent organic inspectors, and other stakeholders.

Click HERE to read the full ACA and IOIA Press release with general recommendations for certifiers, inspectors, and staff during the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Meagan Collins, ACA Coordinator, can be contacted with questions at meagan@accreditedcertifiers.org


May 4, 2020 - PRESS RELEASE

Organic Integrity Learning Center Enhancement Project
United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service,
National Organic Program


Every certified organic farm and business is inspected at least once a year by a network of organic certifiers and inspectors.  In response to COVID-19, some renewal inspections are being conducted virtually or are being delayed.  This has directly impacted some independent organic inspectors, some of whom can’t travel right now. 

To maximize the benefit of these inspectors’ expertise, a collaborative team that includes the USDA National Organic Program, A P Ventures LLC, and the International Organic Inspectors Association, has launched a project to pull in experienced organic inspectors to develop new learning content for the Organic integrity Learning Center.

Experienced professionals with unique knowledge are invited to contribute to the Learning Center Enhancement Project. This funding source for inspectors will result in specific additions to the Learning Center.

When responding to this funding opportunity, it is important to understand how it works. To support this project, the International Organic Inspectors Association is working collaboratively to hire experienced professionals to protect organic integrity. Leveraging their unique and relevant knowledge, these professionals will be assigned to complete project-based tasks. Assignments will include conducting an opportunity analysis, developing an enhancement plan, creating knowledge checks, writing new content, and developing instructional media.

Please see our Job Board page for complete information, job descriptions and applications links.

Project Sponsors
United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service, National Organic Program (USDA AMS NOP)
A P Ventures, LLC (APV)
International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA)


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 20, 2020

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 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:

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.

We will keep you posted to the best of our ability.

Margaret Scoles
Executive Director