Transition to Organic Partnership Program is key part of USDA’s effort to expand organic.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) has been selected as a national partner for the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Transition to Organic Partnership Program, a key component of USDA’s broad multi-agency drive to expand organic agriculture by providing more direct support and technical assistance to producers across the United States. Rodale Institute, long a recognized leader in research and technical expertise on organic agriculture, will be the core partner to OTA.

“Consumer demand for organic products has been growing rapidly in the United States, but domestic production and handling capacity have not kept pace.” said Jeff Tkach, CEO of Rodale Institute. “Through this national partnership with the USDA and the Organic Trade Association, Rodale Institute, the global leader in organic agricultural research, education, and direct farmer support programs, will teach producers how to successfully adopt certified organic handling and processing practices. The Institute’s innovative organic consulting division will also provide on-the-ground training and market development assistance to producers across the nation. If one thing is clear, it’s that this critical and in-demand partnership will lead to better outcomes for both producers and consumers of organic agriculture in the United States.”

As the Lead Cooperator for this project, the trade association will manage and oversee activities throughout the country that support market development for organic products, facilitate the matching of organic producers and suppliers and educate handlers in effective ways of dealing with organic products.

The Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP) is a critical part of USDA’s $300 million Organic Transition Initiative (OTI) announced last year to help foster organic agriculture and make much-needed technical assistance available to transitioning and existing organic farmers. OTI is the largest single investment in organic agriculture ever made by the USDA. In announcing the program, USDA said its aim is to “build new and better markets and streams of income for farmers and producers” and reverse a trend of slow growth in farmers transitioning to organic, open opportunities for new and beginning organic farmers, and expand consumer access to organic foods.

Through TOPP, USDA and its partnering organizations will provide locally-based farmer training and education in six regions across the United States. The national-level TOPP agreements will supplement and collaborate with this regional work, providing nationally-focused coordination and services.

“OTA is honored to be named national partner for USDA in this important program,” said Tom Chapman, CEO of the trade association. “Supporting market development and access for transitioning and organic producers and handlers is vital for the long-term success of USDA’s Organic Transition Initiative. By leveraging our experience and in-depth knowledge of organic, industry network, and collaborative approach, we know we can contribute to the success of the USDA TOPP initiative, and having Rodale as our core partner ensures even greater outcomes for the program.”

Among the various activities that OTA, Rodale Institute, and other partners will develop are:

  • Technical assistance and workshops at the national and regional levels on the various aspects of developing markets for organic products, including educating and empowering farmers and handlers by addressing market trends, marketing and business strategies, and other relevant topics to help them succeed in the organic marketplace;
  • Strategies to connect organic producers with buyers, including the organization of in-person buyer/seller events and hosted buyer tours of regional areas that will provide a forum for networking and interaction, as well as listing participants in online clearinghouses and databases that allow for targeted searching;
  • The Handler Transition Training/Education program which will provide comprehensive training materials and educational resources to support handlers in effectively managing organic products, looking at such handling concerns as labeling, contamination prevention, storage, fraud prevention plans and more.

“USDA’s Organic Transition Initiative takes real steps to build the next generation of organic producers and strengthen organic supply chains,” said Chapman. “We are deeply grateful for the opportunity to support this major program and to help organic continue its forward path.”

ABOUT RODALE INSTITUTE: Rodale Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to growing the regenerative organic agriculture movement through rigorous research, farmer training, and education. The Institute’s groundbreaking science and direct farmer support programs serve as a catalyst for change in farming and food production worldwide. Over its 75-year history, Rodale Institute has proven that organic farming is not only viable but essential to humanity’s survival.