Generally speaking in-person inspections are preferred, and in some cases required. However in some circumstances the remote inspection is the best option, so long as both parties follow the guidance provided on our Remote Inspection Checklists.
Remote inspections via video calls on the farmer's cell phone may be conducted in the following circumstances.
These farms are automatically eligible to be inspected remotely:
New members who
- feel unsafe with an in-person inspection due to COVID-19 infection risk, and
- rely on an inspector who is eligible to conduct an inspection as defined below, and
- accept that they will receive *provisional* certification, and be required to have a follow-up in in-person inspection as soon as it’s safe to do so.
Note: we recommend you look to identify a remote inspector who
- has at least 4 years of experience with CNG certification and has conducted at least three inspections
- isn't nearby, since the follow-up in person inspection should be done by someone local, and by a different inspector.
Returning members who
- have been with CNG for at least three years, 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.
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).
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 either
- have been with CNG for fewer than three years or have had only two different inspectors, and have concerns about COVID-19 infection risk, or
- have farms in a very remote location - ie. more than one hour from the nearest prospective inspector.
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.
- Those who are automatically eligible to have their farm inspected remotely can directly reach out to other CNG members listed on the map. Be sure to ask them if they have conducted at least two in person inspections of two different farms before making any firm plans to have them conduct the remote inspection. If they don’t have enough inspection experience, then they’re not qualified to do a remote inspection. We recommend you prioritize contacting folks who have been with CNG for a long time, as indicated at the bottom of their profile, under Applications for CNG Status. If you're a new member, contact someone who is more than an hour's drive away, so you'll be able to tap someone nearby for your follow-up in person inspection when it's safe to do so.
- 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 concerns or violations raised about their farming operations.
- Follow the Remote Inspection Guidelines 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.
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 during the months of June - August 2020.
This policy is effective June 17, 2020 until August 31, 2020.
It may be extended beyond August, but check this space for further guidance as that date approaches.
This policy will be periodically updated.