Organic import (export) certificates are often required to accompany shipments of organic products to and from nations where the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) has achieved an organic standards equivalency agreement or is working towards one.
Where an import certificate requirement exists, U.S. organic importers are expected to receive import certificates from their supplier for all shipments. These should be kept on file for verification by NOP inspectors and/or USDA NOP or State Organic Program representatives.
Import certificates provide transparency in trade and support the efforts of certifiers to ensure organic integrity. Import certificates are issued by the exporter’s certifier. Exporters should contact their certifier to request import certificates during shipping events. Importers may remind exporters and may contact certifiers, but certificates are only issued to the exporting entity.
Read additional information on organic trade requirements from the NOP.
NOP organic import certificates are not verified by U.S. customs. Incoming U.S. shipments are not stopped if they lack a NOP organic import certificate. Rather, organic certifiers such as CCOF are required to verify the presence of these documents during inspections. Certifiers that issue import certificates to their exporting clients utilize this system to verify the legitimacy of organic exports and supplies, while supporting information about the volume and nature of organic trade with partner nations.
Exporters should be aware that for U.S. exports, the European Union and several nations in Asia do verify the presence of required import documents at customs.
How to Comply
All clients are encouraged to visit CCOF’s international trade pages for more information and instructions.
The NOP recently announced an import certificate requirement for organic products exported to the United States from Mexico. The mandatory implementation date of January 16, 2017 has been delayed until further notice, but the NOP is advising organic importers in the United States that they should utilize import certificates in the interim period. CCOF does not know when the final deadline will be, but expects that both the United States and Mexico will implement an import document requirement at the same time. Visit CCOF’s Mexico Trade page for more information and updates.
CCOF understands that many operations export frequently and this represents an additional administrative and cost burden. We are developing systems, reducing costs, and allocating personnel to ensure the ability to efficiently provide NOP import certificates in high volumes to meet the needs of current and future trade. We will provide certificates electronically, and it is understood that final shipment details may not be known until the shipment is loaded and finalized. Therefore, certificates can be issued after shipments have left your facility, but should be sought as soon as possible.
We will provide additional details to all CCOF clients in Mexico and their U.S. partners upon notification by either government.
In the interim, CCOF recommends that U.S. importers adopt the NOP import certificate for shipments from Mexico as soon as they are reasonably able. This will support the efforts of the United States/Mexico joint compliance committee, support transparency and integrity in the trade, and allow us to work together to build a robust system that can meet your needs long-term.
Imports from Other Countries
Import certificates are required to be on file for organic imports from the European Union, Switzerland, Japan, and Korea. It is your responsibility as an organic importer to seek these certificates and ensure they are on file for all inbound shipments. In the coming year CCOF inspectors will verify the presence of these certificates. Operations that fail to maintain import certificates where they are required by the NOP may receive a noncompliance.
Exporting to Europe
Please note, for shipping to the European Union, the European Union will transition to an all-electronic system called TRACES starting in April 2017, with full implementation in October 2017.