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Appraising the Administrative Burden of USDA Organic Certification

2022, Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, & Community Development, with Ian Adams, Seth Wright, & Tyler Scott

Full title: "Appraising the administrative burden of USDA organic certification: A descriptive analysis of Notice of Noncompliance data"

Link to Article (open access)

Many of the challenges organic producers and processors experience are caused by how organic standards compliance is monitored and enforced—in particular, the administrative procedures that are mandated to verify that operation practices meet organic certification requirements. In this policy analysis, we examine noncompliance documentation and verification by accredited certifiers under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Leveraging a novel and unique compilation of “Notice of Noncompliance” letters issued to organic producers and processors, we find a preponderance of administrative violations, relative to substantive ones. We discuss how the finding may help explain contemporary transformations in the organic market, as larger agri-food entities’ capacity to absorb the administrative costs that frustrate smaller operations may contribute to organic market “conventionalization” and consolidation.

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