The National Organic Program (NOP) is housed within the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service department. The NOP does not certify operations but accredits certifiers to do that work for them. The NOP is responsible of enforcing the use of the word organic and responding to complaints and allegations regarding compliance of operations. They are also in charge of:
- Disseminating new and amended regulations
- Recognizing foreign governments
- Approving State Organic Programs
The National Organic Standards board is the advisory board to the NOP. There are 15 members (4 farmers, 2 processors, 1 retailer, 1 scientist, 3 consumer/public interest advocates, 3 environmentalists, and 1 certifying agent representative) and these members are supposed be a balanced representation of the organic industry. The NOSB is responsible for making recommendations for allowed and prohibited substances but they also advise on other aspects of implementing the National Organic Program. The board holds two meetings a year in different locations around the country that are open to the public.
The main role of the Accredited Certification Agencies (ACAs) is to provide third-party certification of the NOP regulations. All ACAs are required to follow the certification and accreditation procedures as established in the NOP regulations. All ACAs must accept the certification decisions of other certifiers, so a farm certified by Oregon Tilth for example is able to sell their product to a farm certified by VOF without any issue.
Certified organic farmers and processors can participate in the rulemaking process by submitting public comments regarding rule changes to the NOP and can appeal any certification decisions made by an ACA.