USDA-NOP and European Commission Visit Maine

December 1, 2023

MOFGA Certification Services Hosts USDA-NOP and the European Union’s Peer Review

On September 18-20, 2023, MOFGA Certification Services (MCS) hosted the European Commission’s peer review of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP). Peer reviews are part of any organic equivalency arrangement between the USDA and another country, and are designed to ensure continued consistency with products moved between the two countries, based upon the original agreement.

The NOP reached out to MCS to ask if we would be willing to host the delegation, which we agreed to. The visit included participation in the annual inspections of a certified organic dairy operation and a certified organic processor/handler. Jeff and Jake Bragg at Rainbow Valley Farm in Sidney hosted the dairy inspection, and Brian Morris at The Jojoba Company in Washington hosted the processor/handler inspection. The group also visited Johnny’s Selected Seeds, both the facility in Winslow and the research farm in Albion. MCS inspectors and the certified operations did an amazing job and welcomed questions from the European Union (EU) members. It was the first time any of the delegation had visited Maine and they were very impressed with the certified operations, the scenery and Maine in general!

NOP visit JSS
From left to right (standing):  Sibylle Stahr-Sedaghat (European Commission), Jonathan Veley (USDA National Organic Program), Bonita Nicolas (Johnny’s Selected Seeds), Kevin Cook (Johnny’s), Miltiadis Krimizis (European Commission), Elena Panichi (European Commission), Chris Grigsby (MOFGA), Colleen O’Brien (USDA National Organic Program), Pam Doughty (Johnny’s), Sara Kohler (Johnny’s). Renée Gebault King (USDA National Organic Program) and John Welton (MOFGA) kneel in the front.

The delegation also met with members of the MCS team at MOFGA’s offices in Unity. They reviewed the inspection activities and also asked questions about our relationship with NOP, the accreditation process and our certification program. The goal was to use real-time data to evaluate the NOP program to ensure confidence in the existing equivalency arrangement with the EU.

After the delegation wrapped up the peer review process with members of the NOP, the group attended the Common Ground Country Fair on Friday, September 22. Members of both the NOP and EU group were amazed to see the Fair in person and enjoyed great food, interacting with vendors, live music and the T-shirt tent, and left with many souvenirs and mementos from their time in Maine.

For more information about equivalency arrangements and recognition agreements, please visit this USDA page

– Chris Grigsby, MOFGA Certification Services Director

This article was originally published in the winter 2023-24 issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

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