Annual inspection preparation

Tips to be prepared for your annual inspection

Annual inspection of organic operations is critical to maintaining organic integrity within the industry and plays an important role in the NOP’s recently announced “Sound and Sensible” principles. 

Inspectors are the link between certified operators and the certification agency.  They provide feedback to the certification agency about adherence to the Organic System Plan (OSP) and careful organic management practices. 

As a certified operator, there are many things you can do to prepare for a smooth and successful inspection. 

First, consider the following four steps outlined in "Preparing For An Organic Inspection" (Steps and Checklists published by ATTRA, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service):

  1. Review the National Organic Standards – Be familiar with the sections of the standards that directly apply to your operations.
  2. Review your Organic Systems Plan (OSP) – Your updated OSP is the blueprint for your success.  Prior to the inspection, be sure your OSP is complete, up-to-date, and easily accessible.
  3. Review communications from the certification agency – Be prepared to demonstrate and provide documentation you have addressed any requests from the certification agency. 
  4. Gather your records – Be ready to share your records and recordkeeping procedures.

The Binder Approach

At Ecocert ICO, our inspectors have conducted thousands of annual inspections.  They report some of the most successful recordkeeping they encounter is a simple 3-ring binder approach. 

These simple suggestions can be used by any operation to maintain thorough and accurate documentation.

Here’s how you can get started:

Step 1:  Start with a binder with a wide spine (2-3 inches for best results). You’ll also need access to a hole punch tool.

Step 2:  Fill the binder with dividers relevant to your Organic System Plan (OSP).

Step 3:  Use plastic sleeves for oddly shaped material like seed tags, receipts or input labels.

The first item in the binder should be your Organic System Plan (OSP). 

Each divider or section can then follow the OSP outline.

The table below contains some possible dividers for any operation. 

Not all sections will be relevant, so choose ones most suited to your operation and organizational needs.



¨  Farm Plan
¨  Field Maps (w/storage locations)
¨  Seeds and Planting Stock
¨  Seedlings and Greenhouse
¨  Soil and Crop Fertility
¨  Crop Management
¨  Inputs
¨  Organic Integrity
¨  Post-harvest Activity


¨  Operation Profile
¨  Pasture Plan
¨  Origin of Animals
¨  Feed and Feed Supplements
¨  Living Conditions
¨  Health Management
¨  Pasture
¨  Inputs
¨  Handling of Livestock Production


¨  Activity and Products Profile
¨  Composition
¨  Pest Management
¨  Maintenance of Organic Integrity
¨  Inputs
¨  Packaging and Labeling

Remember to keep and file all seed tags, input labels, contracts, purchase orders, organic certificates, and receipts in the assigned sections.  In addition to meeting the requirements of the OSP, operators should be prepared to demonstrate the following during all inspections:

  • Access to a copy of the NOP Regulations.
  • Supporting documentation of the organic status of all incoming inputs.
  • Proof of purchase of all incoming organic inputs.
  • A “balance audit” of product produced and incoming ingredients.
  • For operations using manure: the dates of application.