The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that California Organic Farmers Association's accreditation as an organic certifying agent has been revoked.
As a result, COFA is no longer authorized by USDA's National Organic Program to certify organic crop, livestock, wild crop, and handling operations.
Certifying agents normally evaluate Organic System Plans, conduct inspections, and audit records to verify compliance with the national organic standards. Once accredited, they must renew their accreditation every five years.
The NOP accredited COFA as an organic certifying agent on April 29, 2002. Following COFA's submission of a 5-year renewal application in 2007, the NOP conducted an audit of the facility and its records, which resulted in the finding of 12 noncompliant items. After COFA submitted corrective actions, the NOP determined that COFA had not adequately corrected 10 of the noncompliances.
On July 31, 2008, the NOP proposed to revoke COFA's accreditation for three years due to failure to comply with the NOP regulations or to proffer satisfactory corrective actions. COFA appealed the NOP's decision, which the Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator denied Oct. 8, 2009.
Pursuant to federal regulations, COFA requested a formal administrative proceeding before an Administrative Law Judge. In August 2010, COFA withdrew its request for a hearing, thereby upholding the Administrator's denial of COFA's appeal and revoking COFA's accreditation for 3 years.
Points of noncompliance with the governing act and the national organic standards included review of a facility in which an employee held a partial interest, inadequate retention of records and procedures, and insufficient inspections of and communication with certified operations.
Organic producers and handlers previously certified by COFA are now inspected and certified by other accredited certifying agents.