Jun 27, 2023
USDA names OTA as national partner in organic initiative
The USDA has chosen the Organic Trade Association (OTA) as a national partner for the Transition to Organic Partnership Program, part of an initiative to provide direct support and technical assistance to producers.
Rodale Institute, a leader in research and technical expertise on organic agriculture, will be the core partner to OTA.
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 in 2022 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 throughout the country. 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,” Tom Chapman, CEO of the trade association, said in a news release. “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,” Chapman said in the release.
Consumer demand for organic products has been growing rapidly in the U.S., 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,” Tkach said in the release.
The institute’s organic consulting division will 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,” Tkach said in the release.
Among activities that OTA, Rodale and other partners will develop are:
Technical assistance and workshops on developing markets for organic products, including educating and empowering farmers and handlers by addressing market trends, marketing and business strategies.
Strategies to connect organic producers with buyers, including the organization of in-person buyer/seller events and hosted buyer tours of regional areas, as well as online databases for targeted searching.
The Handler Transition Training/Education program, which will provide training materials and educational resources for handling concerns including labeling, contamination prevention, storage and fraud prevention plans.
“USDA’s Organic Transition Initiative takes real steps to build the next generation of organic producers and strengthen organic supply chains,” Chapman said in the release. “We are deeply grateful for the opportunity to support this major program and to help organic continue its forward path.”