Remote Inspections Policy

Generally speaking in-person inspections are preferred, and in some cases required. But at times the remote inspection is the best option, so long as both parties adhere to this policy and also follow the guidance provided on our Remote Inspection Checklists.

Remote inspections are carried out via video calls where the farmer being inspected uses their cell phone, so they can show the inspector around the farm, and the inspector is at home on either a laptop, desktop, or cell phone.

Remote inspections may be conducted in the following circumstances. 

These farms are automatically eligible to be inspected remotely:

  • Returning members who
    • have been with CNG for at least three years, and
    • have strong enough internet connection to tour their farm via video call for the remote inspection to take place on, and
    • have been inspected by at least three different people on three different occasions, and
    • rely on an inspector who is eligible to conduct an inspection as defined below.

*Produce farms can only be inspected remotely during their growing season.*

These farms are automatically eligible to conduct remote inspections:

  • CNG members in good standing who
    • have conducted at least two in-person inspections of at least two different farms, and
    • who are familiar with the type of operation to be inspected remotely, (ie, just as with in-person inspections, produce growers inspect produce growers, beekeepers inspect beekeepers, livestock inspects livestock, etc.)
  • Senior Remote Inspectors ~ Priority given to members whose last inspection occurred at least 14 months ago.

If possible, we recommend you look to identify a remote inspector who also meets these criteria:

  • Has been CNG certified since 2016 or earlier, and
  • Has conducted at least three inspections, and
  • Is not nearby, since your next in-person inspection should be done by a different inspector, and someone within an hour's drive.

Special Situations ~ Prior Approval Needed

CNG staff will in many cases, and upon request, make special arrangements for the following members who do not automatically qualify for remote inspections: 

  • Members who have been with CNG for fewer than three years or have had only one or two different inspectors, and
    • have a farm in a very remote location - ie. more than one hour from the nearest prospective inspector, or
    • have concerns about COVID-19 infection risk.

These members should contact CNG staff to ensure they are paired with a qualified remote inspector (typically someone who has conducted at least three CNG inspections of at least three different farms in person). These arrangements must be approved in advance

The Process

  • Those who are automatically eligible to have their farm inspected remotely should follow the Process for Setting up a Remote Inspection.
  • Those who fall under “Special Situations” category should contact CNG to see if they can get a special exemption to be inspected remotely. Our determination will be based partly on inspection history and whether there have ever been any violations or concerns raised about their farming operations. 
  • Follow the Remote Inspection Checklists to help you prepare for and carry out the remote inspection, and be sure to make a note on the inspection forms indicating that the inspection was completed remotely. 

Background

In the spring of 2020, we trialed a couple dozen remote inspections, to determine whether they'd provide a reliable alternative to in-person inspections. These are inspections in which the farmer shows the inspector their farm and answers questions via videoconference, using their mobile phone. Our primary motivation was to overcome the restrictions on in-person meetings brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and enable farmers to complete their certification before the growing season got fully under way. These trials were surprisingly successful and well-received. We thoroughly debriefed with the participants to identify best practices and any cautionary notes. Based on our findings CNG will - under the specific conditions outlined above - recognize inspections conducted remotely via videoconference. the first remote inspection policy took effect June 20, 2020. It was updated in May 2021 to remove the provision allowing new members to automatically be allowed to receive a remote inspection. 

On May 15, 2021, new members will no longer be eligible to be inspected remotely without prior approval. Requesting approval for a remote inspection is discouraged for new members except under unusually extenuating circumstances. New members who nevertheless seek a remote inspection may get info on how to request a waiver here

 

This policy will be periodically updated.

Drafted 6/19/20
Updated 7/9/20, 5/10/21