An application for organic certification may be denied by your organic certification agent for any number of reasons as noted in part § 205.405 of the final rule. Some reasons why your application may be denied include the following:
- You missed a deadline to turn in certification paperwork or missed an important appointment with your certifying agent, for example, you missed your inspection.
- You didn't pay your certification fees on time.
- Your organic system plan (OSP) is incomplete, incorrect, not in compliance with the final rule or you changed your OSP and forgot to tell your certifying agent about it.
- You willfully made a false statement or misrepresented your organic operation.
- You didn't manage to control commingling and contamination of organics and non-organics.
- You failed to keep consistent or proper records of your business.
- You mistakenly or deliberately used a prohibited substance and your certifying agent found out.
Of course, there are many other reasons why your application may be denied. Above are just some of the more common reasons why.
How Will You be Notified?
When a certifying agent feels that an applicant for organic certification is unable to comply with organic program requirements, the agent must provide the applicant with a written notification of noncompliance.
If the issue is more serious than a basic, fixable noncompliance the agent may send the applicant a notification of noncompliance and a notification of denial of certification at the same time. A notification of noncompliance will contain the following:
- Description of the noncompliance/s.
- Facts as to why the applicant is in noncompliance.
- A due date for the applicant to either rebut or correct each noncompliance
What Happens After You Receive a Denial Notification?
If you get a notification that says you're in noncompliance, you've got four basic choices.
Choice 1: You can correct the noncompliance and send your agent supporting documentation that shows how you corrected the issue. At this point the agent must evaluate the changes you made and may conduct an on-site inspection. If the agent decides the changes are sufficient, you will be approved for organic certification. If the agent feels you haven't made the proper changes, the agent will issue a written notice of denial of certification.
Choice 2: You can correct the noncompliance issue and submit your application to a new organic certifying agent. Even if you choose a new agent, your application must include the original notification of noncompliance received from your first certifying agent along with documentation proving you took corrective actions to fix the issue. The benefit of using a new agent may be that you simply didn't get along well with your first agent. Additionally a new certifying agent is required to treat your application as a new application, thus kicking off a new application process. Obviously the downside is that a new application process will take much more time and will cost you more in fees.
Choice 3: You can dispute the denial via written information sent to the issuing certifying agent. This may result in a reevaluation of your application or a denial of application notice, depending on the agent, the noncompliance and other factors.
Choice 4: Your last choice, and probably the worst choice you have, is to do nothing. Meaning, you simply fail to respond when you receive a noncompliance notification. Nothing will come of you ignoring the notice, other than you'll get a second written notice that denies you organic certification.
Your Rights if Your Application is Denied
If you receive a notification that your application has been denied, you have some basic rights.
- You have the right to reapply for organic certification pursuant to §§ 205.401 and 205.405(e).
- You have the right to ask for and receive mediation pursuant to § 205.663.
- You have the right to file an appeal. See § 205.681 to learn more about the appeal process.
Avoid Denied Applications
The best way to avoid receiving a notice of noncompliance or a notice of application denial is to make sure you apply the right way, the first time, using the tips below:
- Choose the best certifying agent to meet your needs.
- Carefully read through the NOP handbook.
- Apply for certification step-by-step - in other words, don't rush.
- Make sure your understand organic labels.
- Avoid the most common certification mistakes and NOP violations.
- Get to know the national list backwards and forwards.