MOSA Clients Partner with MOSA's Materials Review Team
“Is this input allowed for use in my organic operation?” is the top question that MOSA’s clients ask our Customer Service-Materials Review Team, and for great reasons: choosing the best inputs for one’s organic operation can mean the difference between success and failure for a particular organic product or even entire business, and use of even a small amount of prohibited material can make a product un-certifiable as organic. Because of the tremendous importance of input reviews to our clients’ organic operations and to their organic certifications, MOSA has committed significant resources to developing an excellent material review program as a core offering to our clients within our organic certification service. Like the other aspects of organic certification, though, MOSA’s materials review program works best when embraced as a partnership between MOSA staff and clients, so let’s discuss some ways to strengthen that partnership!
MOSA: staff + technology + procedures
Over the last two years, MOSA has assembled and trained staff to focus exclusively on our clients’ certification questions and input review requests: the Customer Service-Material Review Team. I joined, and then tried to imitate, longstanding organic farmer-inspector Robert Caldwell on the Team two years ago. We lost beloved Robert to a well-deserved retirement last spring, but have gained two impressive members in Terri Okrasinski and Andrea Holm, who were both seasoned Organic Inspector-Reviewers in MOSA’s Certification Department. Our team is led by MOSA Client Relations Director Joe Pedretti, while MOSA Certification Policy Manager Jackie DeMinter directs our team’s material review efforts. Finally, some material reviews are completed by MOSA’s Certification Specialists, who primarily focus on Initial and Final Reviews for MOSA clients.
MOSA has also invested in technology to strengthen and streamline our material review process, building and implementing over the past two years a new materials database within the Knack cloud-based software system. This new database has enabled MOSA to capture and re-use more precise information about the inputs our clients use, allowing us to build an individualized, secure, and confidential Input Inventory for each client within the database. With this connection, MOSA can better avoid repeated requests to clients for input use information, readily inform clients of changes to inputs, and determine organic compliance of inputs more efficiently. MOSA IT Analyst Ryan Hunt adroitly tinkers with the Knack database when needed.
While the fancy new database may have streamlined some of our material review work, our procedures still allow a host of ways for clients to communicate with MOSA staff regarding inputs for their organic operations. One or two of us on the Customer Service-Materials Review Team is available during MOSA’s open hours to answer phone calls, emails, and paper letters about inputs and other certification topics. Additionally, MOSA clients are asked on their Annual Update form each spring if they have any new inputs to propose for use that year, and clients are asked at Inspection to review and revise their current Input Inventory (printed from the new Knack database) as necessary.
MOSA clients: ask + consider + wait
Whichever way MOSA clients choose to contact MOSA, they strengthen our material review partnership when they ask about the acceptability of an input well in advance of the date they want to use it in their operation. Clients should include three pieces of information about their requested input when they contact MOSA:
1. The product’s exact name
2. The brand/manufacturer
3. The intended use
MOSA staff will then use this specific information to search in our Knack database to determine if we have reviewed the input for the intended use. If MOSA has not reviewed the input, our Customer Service Team will then look in the inputs databases of the three independent input review agencies approved by the National Organic Program: OMRI, WSDA, and CDFA (fertilizers only). If MOSA or one of the three approved agencies has reviewed and approved it for the requested use, then hooray!—it will likely also be approved for the current client’s use, provided they meet any restriction that’s part of the input’s review status.
If the requested input has not yet been reviewed and approved, though, the MOSA Customer Service Team member will ask the MOSA client to consider using a similar input that has already been reviewed and approved for the same use. We’ll search for these inputs within the approved databases and happily provide lists for clients by phone, email, or postal mail.
If the client does want to have the requested input reviewed for their intended use, then the MOSA Customer Service-Material Review Team member will ask the client to wait to use the input while we start the full material review process by entering the input into our Knack database and attaching the requesting client’s name to it, so we know whom to contact when the review is complete. The request will then be put in the “review queue”, to be reviewed in the order received. MOSA will contact the manufacturer directly on behalf of our client, since most manufacturers will not release ingredient information directly to their customers. Since the request may not come up for review for a few weeks, and may take several days or weeks to review with the manufacturer (depending on the complexity of the review and/or the engagement of the manufacturer), we strongly suggest that clients make their input requests a few months prior to the date they hope to use the input.
MOSA + clients = a successful organic partnership
With the tremendous growth of the organic foods movement, the number of inputs developed for this expanded market of organic producers has also increased dramatically. The good news is that many of these materials can enhance the quality, productivity, and efficiency of MOSA clients’ organic operations. The challenge for MOSA and our clients is to review the host of new materials in a timely and cost-effective manner. During our shared history, MOSA and our clients have repeatedly turned challenges such as this into opportunities to strengthen our partnership by leaning into it with generosity, understanding, and dedication.
Comments, questions, or an input review to request? Contact your MOSA Customer Service-Material Review Team, since the only thing we enjoy more than reviewing inputs for our MOSA clients is talking directly with them!