A letter from the NICS team
Dear valued NICS client,
Information continues to pour in regarding COVID-19 globally, nationally, and locally in our central Wisconsin community. We are thinking of all of you in your community and how this situation is affecting you. Although the scale of the total COVID-19 impact is unknown, it’s necessary for NICS to do its part to protect our employees and be responsible to our community, locally, organically, and beyond. At NICS, we are concerned greatly about the health and well-being of our employees and our clients. Keeping people at the center of every action, interaction, and decision is part of NICS’s continued values. Now, in such a time of global uncertainty, it is more important than ever to return to the values NICS was built on for guidance.
At this time, and until the threat of COVID-19 subsides, the NICS office in Viroqua, Wisconsin is closed to the public until further notice. Many of our staff will work remotely, as our Wisconsin governor has issued a “safer-at-home” order. This order requests that NICS employees refrain from traveling for nonessential commutes, which, at this time, means we will not be working within the office walls. However, as the situation unfolds, we will continue to keep you informed, as able, of any operational changes, as applicable. With these changes to our operations, you may experience some delays in service. We are making every attempt to limit any delays and continue to provide the customer service NICS is known for. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us, send us an email at email@example.com, or call us at 608-637-7080.
NICS is strongly recommending that in-person inspections NOT occur at this time. We are working to have inspectors conduct inspections by other means, such as virtually with a desk audit or by desk audit only. Operations where the inspection is conducted virtually or via desk audit will be subject to a follow up inspection, which may be announced or unannounced. Operations will be charged for virtual inspections, desk audits, and in-person inspections; however, we do not anticipate a significant increase in the overall inspection cost for individual operations as verification of aspects of an operation’s Organic System Plan will not be duplicated across all inspection types (virtual, desk audit, in-person).
Please note the decision to conduct an on-site inspection is ultimately at the discretion and comfort levels of both the inspector and the operator. NICS is asking inspectors and operators to take state and local travel guidance into consideration when making the decision to conduct an on-site. NICS also suggests the following be implemented to protect all participants’ health and safety: Verify if the inspector or operator has traveled recently, is displaying any symptoms, etc.
Limit non-essential participants and utilize social distancing (i.e. 6-plus feet between people) as much as possible. Check temperature each morning. Cancel inspection if sick or showing symptoms (cough, fatigue, sore throat, etc.). Inspectors and operators should communicate directly with each other to cancel inspections, as applicable. If you need assistance in canceling the inspection, please contact Lisa Stoikes (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Kris Olson (email@example.com). You can also call the office, and we’ll get them in touch with you. Wear a mask, as applicable. Practice frequent hygiene tips such as washing hands for 20-plus seconds, using hand sanitizer, and not touching your face. Inspectors should clean/sanitize equipment (e.g. computer), tables, inspection equipment regularly (i.e. before and after inspection).
For new applicants, at this time, NICS cannot guarantee any timeline for certification, as we are uncertain if in-person inspections will be able to be conducted for the foreseeable future. As stated above, we may be able to complete virtual inspections with desk audits. If that is possible, we may be able to issue a certificate. If not, we will need to perform an in-person inspection, and we cannot guarantee any timelines. At this time, we’re recommending no earlier than June 1 for in-person inspections. We will be doing everything we can to provide attentive and responsive service. We also want to thank you for being a valued member of the organic community and for your patience and understanding as we navigate this situation. Please keep yourself, your family, and your companions safe during this time.
The NICS staff
Nature’s International Certification Services (NICS) is an organic certification agency founded to serve organic producers nationwide with their certification needs. We will help you step through the process of organic certification.
NICS is accredited by the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) to assess the ability of organic operations (including crops, wild crops, livestock, and processing/ handling operations) to implement, comply with and carry out the terms and conditions determined for organic management and products.
In addition to providing organic certification, NICS is also able to provide transitional land verification, perform inspections for the American Grassfed Association (AGA), and provide services for organic producers who wish to export their products to Canada, the European Union, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Switzerland and Taiwan.
NICS makes its services accessible to all applicants whose activities fall within their declared field of operation, and confines its certification requirements, inspection, and certification decisions to those matters specifically related to the scope of certification.
We serve clients in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin, but we may be able to assist clients in other states. Call our office for more information.
Nature’s International Certification Services is located in Viroqua, Wisconsin. Get directions.