The Organic Trade Association and other organic advocacy groups are happy with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's decision to audit its National Organic Program.


In a July 29 letter to the National Organic Coalition, USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced that The National Institute of Standards and Technology, an agency of the Department of Commerce, will review the program's accreditation.


"Third-party recognition is important for many of USDA's audit-based programs," Merrigan wrote in the letter. "We understand the value of this step as we continue working to strengthen the integrity of the (National Organic Program) and to build the organic community's trust in the program."


Barbara Haumann, spokeswoman for the Greenfield, Mass.-based Organic Trade Association, said that receiving such recognition would support the organic program's credentials as an accrediting body and satisfy regulatory requirements.


"It's certainly good to have peer review and provide a good evaluation," she said. "It will show how we're doing on the international front."


The National Organic Program oversees the USDA organic seal that appears on organic products, develops standards for organic products sold in the U.S., accredits organic inspectors and performs other functions.


The audit had been called for by the National Organic Coalition, a group of organizations that represents organic producers' interests in Washington, D.C., and other groups, according to a coalition news release.


"We applaud USDA's willingness to submit its organic program to the rigors of these international norms and believe this will pave the way for continued growth and success of the U.S. organic industry," coalition member Robynn Shrader, chief executive officer of the National Cooperative Grocers Association, said in the release.