Public policies are structured by policy designs that communicate the key elements, linkages, and underlying logic through which policy objectives are to be realized. In an article published in the Journal of Theoretical Politics, several co-authors and I analyze the policy design underlying the USDA's National Organic Program regulation. Among the paper's findings are four manners in which the NOP diverges from 'traditional' regulatory policies - something I've come to refer to as regulatory policy 'design innovations'. The design innovations identified in the study, and which are the focus of much of my organic certification research, include:
The NOP relies on an expert advisory board (the National Organic Standards Board; NOSB) to inform the determination of organic standards that are codified in federal regulations;
Through accreditation processes, the NOP delegates regulatory authority to independent certifiers from across the public, nonprofit, and private sectors for the purposes of certifying operations as organic and monitoring them for regulatory compliance;
The NOP is a quasi-voluntary program as operations are only subject to its regulations if they decide to market their products as organic, and;
Operations choose their organic certifier and pay them a fee for services, creating a competitive environment wherein certifiers compete for certification clients.
For those interested in organic certification matters, these findings provide insight into the regulatory structure that governs national organic standards development and enforcement. For scholars, the study outlines a methodological approach built on the conceptual foundation of the Institutional Analysis and Development framework for analyzing, mapping, and understanding policy design.