Certified Organic Producers' Perceptions of Certifier Expertise

    Updated: Aug 7, 2019

    Expertise is a common rational for relying on third-party intermediaries to administer regulatory standards. Yet, little is known about how perceived competence varies across the diversity of intermediaries found across regulatory settings. In an article published in Administration & Society, I seek a better understanding of perceived intermediary expertise through a study of producer perceptions of USDA-accredited organic certifier competence in the administration of organic regulations. In the study I look at whether producers' assessments of organic certifiers' competence are related to certifier characteristics - such as whether a certifier is governmental, for-profit, or nonprofit, and the certifier's size. I also look at whether producers' assessments of certifiers' expertise is related to how certifiers' administer organic regulations; such as how strictly they interpret the regulations and whether they provide information and assistance that help producers comply with the regulations.

    I find that what certifiers look like matters less than how they administer the regulations: producers are more likely to view certifiers as highly competent the more strictly certifiers interpret the regulations and the more assistance they provide producers. For those concerned with the regulation of organic standards the results suggest that certifier expertise may not be contingent on the type of organic certifier in question. For regulatory scholars the results suggest that diverse intermediaries have the potential to be similarly effective at supporting regulatory program goals, and that program credibility is not inherently threatened by an administratively diverse third-party landscape.

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