Interested in becoming an Organic Inspector?
Preparation and Self-Assessment
The first step is to investigate the need for inspectors in your area. IOIA encourages new inspectors to visit with certification agencies active in their area, as well as working inspectors who are willing to provide mentoring through apprenticeship. Contact information for certification agencies and working inspectors is available in the searchable on-line IOIA Member Directory. IOIA is not an employment service and does not arrange work for inspectors. Rather, it is an association of professional inspectors which strives to provide support services for inspectors and an opportunity for collective voice in industry issues. IOIA inspector members serve many different certification agencies.
Next, familiarize yourself with the acceptance criteria for the basic courses (Crop, Livestock, Processing). Additional preparation may be gained before attempting a course through training including webinars, conferences, and reading. Evaluate your unique skills, abilities, and interests in relation to the requirements of inspectors. Inspection usually involves travel and long work days while doing inspections with periods of intense report writing to meet critical deadlines and periods of no inspection work. Clear writing skills and the ability to meet deadlines are essential. The product by which an inspector is measured is, to a large degree, the report. Inspection work can be very difficult when cases of fraud or negligence are uncovered. Do you have the integrity to do the job diligently? Are you familiar with organic standards and principles? Do you have good oral and written communications skills? Are you committed to ongoing professional upgrading as needed? If so, organic inspection may be an opportunity for you.
Basic Training (Crop, Livestock, Processing)
Finally, look for IOIA training in your area. Most certification agencies require basic IOIA training. The 4.5-day basic courses are rigorous, with some evening sessions. Participants are mailed an acceptance package four to six weeks before the course and should allow several days to complete pre-course reading and assignments. Completed pre-course assignments must be emailed to IOIA according to deadlines. The IFOAM/IOIA International Organic Inspection Manual and the regional organic standards are the basis for the courses. Copies of the Manual and the standards are included in the registration fee.
Letters of Attendance are provided for those who choose to audit the course (test and written assignments not required of persons who audit courses) and those who fail to meet the course completion requirements. Certificates of Completion are given to those who meet acceptance criteria, attend all sessions, and receive passing grades on the required written assignments and tests. Each basic course includes an optional session, “Operating an Organic Inspection Business” to assist new inspectors. Training is open to non-members and members.
Both inspector and supporting members receive discounts off training fees. Join IOIA Now!
Scholarships are available. IOIA accepts applications for the annual Andrew Rutherford Scholarship Award, which provides full tuition for an IOIA-sponsored organic inspector training course during the following year. Both prospective and experienced inspectors are eligible to apply for the Rutherford Scholarship. It is awarded to an individual on the basis of need and potential as judged by the IOIA Scholarship Committee. Applicants can choose to attend any IOIA-sponsored training. The Scholarship pays for tuition, room and board but does not cover transportation or other expenses.
IOIA offers Field Training courses designed as a structured apprenticeship for organic inspectors. Participants work with experienced inspectors to participate in and complete two organic inspections and reports. Participants will be evaluated on their pre-course assignment, participation during the course and their successful completion of two inspection reports. IOIA typically holds Field Training courses two to three times per year.
IOIA recommends apprenticeship with an experienced inspector. Apprentice inspectors who are interested in an informal apprenticeship should contact experienced inspectors in their area and ask to accompany them on one or more inspections as an observer. Some mentors are willing to take apprentices. Others are not. Some charge for their services; many do not. In some cases, veteran inspectors have paid the apprentices as assistants. In all cases, apprentices should expect to pay all of their own expenses during the apprenticeship. Some certification agencies have specific requirements for new inspectors. In all cases, the apprentice inspector completes at least one inspection while observed by the veteran. The experienced inspector is responsible for the quality of the report, signs the final draft, and is paid for the inspection.
Informal apprenticeship in each category (Crops, Livestock, and Processing) is recommended before seeking work of that category and is usually accepted by certification agencies. Prospective inspectors should contact individual agencies for more information specific to that agency.
IOIA recommends the following steps:
Successful completion of IOIA inspector training.
Accompany experienced inspector on at least 3 inspections, writing reports for the 2nd and 3rd inspections for review by the mentor.
Submit an additional 7 inspection reports for review and evaluation by the mentor.
Mentors evaluate the work of the apprentice and may right a Recommendation Letter.
Inspectors seek work from certifiers. Certifiers will typically require proof of training; a fee schedule; and conflict of interest and confidentiality agreements.
Completion of the IOIA Training Verification Form after either 5 supervised inspections or 10 inspections for a certifier.
IOIA Inspector Membership
IOIA Inspector Accreditation
Continuing education (both organic and non-organic) annually in the category. This should include 200-level training in the category (Crop, Livestock, Processing) through IOIA webinars. It might also include Advanced 300-level Training. IOIA provides 300-level training annually at the Annual Meeting, at several other locations during the year, and by webinar. Certificates are awarded to participants who complete all course requirements.
IOIA offers inspector accreditation for members in 3 categories: Crops, Livestock, and Processing.
Applicants must meet minimum criteria in the following categories:
Commitment to organics
Education, Work and life experience
Inspection experience (at least 2 years and 10 inspections)
Additional criteria are the requirement to submit a current resume and evaluation letters from all the certifiers for which they have worked, plus attending inspector training at least every 3 years. Once accredited, applicants may apply for renewal every 3 years, again meeting minimum criteria of ongoing inspector training, continuing education, a minimum amount of inspections in the category, and an updated resume. Accreditation is a voluntary program. For more information on the Accreditation Program, click here.