Dec 9, 2022
Pennsylvania Certified Organic to lead Northeast TOPP efforts

Pennsylvania Certified Organic has been chosen to lead the Northeast region of the federal Transition to Organic Partnership Program.

TOPP is a five-year cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program. The six-region TOPP network will be made up of community partners charged with helping provide direct farmer training, education and outreach activities, including mentoring networks, technical assistance and data reporting.

Other TOPP regions include West/Southwest, Plains, Midwest, Southeast and Mid-Atlantic Northeast. The program is part of the USDA’s $300 million Organic Transition Initiative, launched in August of this year.

PCO is a nonprofit, USDA-accredited organic certifying agency. It will work with other regional certifiers, state departments of agriculture, universities and extensions, and nonprofits in supporting farmer-to-farmer mentoring, community-building programs, technical assistance/training, data collection/reporting, and workforce training/development.

“Being chosen as a lead is an honor and vote of confidence for us, but it is also a challenge of great responsibility and leadership,” PCO Executive Director Diana Kobus said. “Working in close partnership with other certification, education, outreach, and community organizations in the region will be key in our approach and in having successful outcomes across the Northeast. Along with our partner organizations and advisors, we’re being trusted to uphold and advance organic principles and practices through certification, advocacy, and technical support. This unified effort will help to create agricultural systems that prioritize health, ecological balance and fairness in our region.

“Pennsylvania is the only state with its own farm bill, and I am very confident that through that tradition of strong leadership, we can help transform the food system for the benefit of all of us.”

The Northeast region includes Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.

Last month, California Certified Organic Farmers announced it will serve as the hub for TOPP’s West/Southwest region.

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program is administering the program.

“It is important to understand that everyone has a seat at the table in this work,” Kobus said.

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