The Organic Trade Association has partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help guide farmers transitioning to certified organic agricultural production. The National Certified Transitional Program will rely on standards developed by the OTA and provide oversight to approved Accredited Organic Certifying Agents offering transitional certification to producers. This system will help ease the transition process to organic, allowing farmers to sell their products as certified transitional at a premium price. Ultimately, the program’s intent is to encourage more organic production.

While this new program provides certification and oversight to producers who are transitioning to organic, it does not provide standards or criteria for labeling products certified under the program. In order to obtain transitional certification, farmers will need to prove their land has been free of prohibited substances for a minimum of 12 months and must follow all other organic production standards for transitional certification, including the fostering and conserving of biodiversity, the avoidance of the use of genetic engineering, and crop rotation. Once land is eligible for organic certification, it can only enter into the transitional certification program one more time, which will ensure that the transitional certification acts as an effective on-ramp to organic production and doesn’t create an “organic-light” marketing term.

USDA will accept applications for the first round of Accredited Certifying Agents through Feb. 28. On-site reviews of these certifying agents will occur at their next organic accreditation audit.

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