November 11, 2022
On October 24, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced cooperative agreements in six regions across the country for the Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP). TOPP will invest up to $100 million over five years in cooperative agreements with non-profit organizations to provide technical assistance to transitioning and existing organic farmers.
TOPP is a part of the newly created Organic Transition Initiative, the details of which were announced last August. This program will assist producers in navigating the transition process and accessing new organic markets. Led by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), six regional partnership networks across the US will work with local organizations that connect transitioning farmers with mentors. These partnerships will prioritize building paid mentoring networks to share practical knowledge and advice between established organic farmers and those transitioning. This includes train-the-mentor support, as well as technical assistance, workshops, and field days about managing organic operations, such as production practices, certification, conservation planning, business development (for example, navigating the supply chain), regulations, and marketing.
A significant number of National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) across the country will participate in establishing the partnership network for transitioning and existing organic farmers. These members include:
|Florida Organic Growers||Georgia Organics|
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
|Rural Advancement Foundation International||National Center for Appropriate Technology|
Maine Organic Farmers and Growers
|Northeast Organic Farming Association||Marbleseed||Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association||Oregon Tilth|
Oregon State University Center for Small Farms & Community Food Systems
|Organic Farming Research Foundation||California Certified Organic Farmers||Agriculture and Land Based Training Association|
Community Alliance with Family Farmers
Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network
|Berkeley Food Institute|
More details and the list of non-profit organizations participating in the TOPP network can be found here. Farmers interested in serving as an organic mentor or who are interested in transitioning to organic, as well as non-profits interested in being a part of TOPP can get involved here.
On November 15, 2022 at 3pm EST USDA will hold a virtual listening session to gather input on the Organic Transition Initiative, Pinpointed Organic Market Development grant program. Register here.
Last year, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) submitted recommendations to USDA which included investments in organic research and procurement. Several of these recommendations were unfortunately not included as a part of this recent announcement, yet they remain priorities for NSAC. However, given the challenges organic programs have recently faced, including the funding shortfall of the National Organic Certification Cost-Share program, USDA’s commitment to supporting organic producers will help boost productivity and consumer confidence in the organic standard and markets.