Delivering the week’s top organic food news
100% Non-GMO

The Pilot Program has Launched, a New Leader is in Place

One of the most interesting and acclaimed initiatives in the organic industry, the Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC). is making significant progress and is on track for an early 2019 launch.

Created by the Regenerative Organic Alliance (ROA), ROC will not replace USDA organic certification but merely serves as an “add-on” label to USDA organic certification, a requisite for ROC. The goal is to raise the bar of what organic can be, with an emphasis on soil health, animal health and social welfare.

Recently, I spoke with Phil Graves and Alex Kremer from Patagonia and Jeff Moyer from Rodale Institute, two organizations that have been early backers of ROA, to get an update on things. Here are the highlights from our conversations:

* The official pilot program of ROC has begun. Out of the 80 brands that applied, 21 companies were selected, and these brands source raw ingredients from farms all over the world.

Pilot Program Participants

Company / Brand Products Location
Alexandre Farms Grass-Fed Dairy // Milk & Yogurt California
Alter Eco Cacao Ecuador
Apricot Lane Farms Orchards // Stone Fruits & Avocados California
Audubon Bobcat Ranch Grass-Fed Beef California
Breathe Deep Farm Livestock // Grains // Vegetables New York
Cedar Circle Farms Fruits // Strawberries & Blueberries Vermont
Dandrea Produce Vegetables New Jersey
Dr. Bronner’s Tree Crops // Coconut, Palm Oil, Cocoa Sri Lanka, Ghana
Fetzer Vineyards (Bonterra) Wine California
Grain Place Foods Grain Crops Nebraska
Guayaki Beverage // Yerba Mate Brazil
Herb Pharm Herbs Oregon
Horizon Organic Grass-Fed Dairy // Milk & Yogurt Iowa, Michigan
Lotus Foods Rice Cambodia
Many Hands Organic Farm Livestock // Vegetables Massachusetts
Maple Hill Creamery Grass-Fed Dairy // Milk & Yogurt New York
Nature’s Path / Legend Organic Farm Row Crops // Oats & Corn Canada
Patagonia (Prathiba & Arvind) Row Crops // Cotton India
Patagonia Provisions (Sol Simple) Tree Crops // Mango, Pineapple, Papaya Nicaragua
Puris Foods Legumes Midwest U.S.
Vega Vegan Products California


* The length of the pilot program will depend on each company’s specific product, and some may last up to 12 months. It is expected that by Natural Products Expo West 2019, approximately 20% of the pilot participants will have achieved ROC certification. ROC will officially launch in 2019 with products certified from the pilot program.

* The ROC standards, as they are written now, are not set in stone. A primary objective of the pilot program is to receive feedback from the participants and adjust as needed. In Q1 of 2019, ROA will start making adjustments to the standards, as it will then have four months of feedback to consider.

* One important aspect of the program is that ROC has been purposely designed so that it is not overly burdensome to companies. As such, it will leverage existing audits or certifications that a company currently has — such as Demeter, Fair for Life, Certified Humane, Animal Welfare Approved and numerous others — and then fill in the missing gaps as required by ROC. The goal is to minimize the number of additional certifications needed.

* NSF is overseeing the certification of ROC, and the certification agencies that have been approved to conduct pilot program audits are QAI, CCOF, ECOCERT, Control Union, Pro-Cert and QCS. Oregon Tilth, NOFA-NY, Vermont Certified Organic and others are expected to be onboarded soon.

* ROA has hired Elizabeth Whitlow as its new Executive Director. Having spent many years at EarthClaims and CCOF, Elizabeth has extensive experience in both organic and animal welfare certifications.


1) There has been much concern from the organic and regenerative community about Horizon Organic being included in this pilot program. Among other things, The Cornucopia Institute has filed multiple complaints with the USDA about Horizon operating as an ‘organic factory farm.’

ROA has defended the inclusion of Horizon because Horizon’s organic, grass-fed line will be the company’s only product line participating in the pilot program. Additionally, ROA is hopeful that the ROC’s practices will spread throughout Horizon.

2) I was told that ROA has been in close communication with the USDA about the ROC and that its use of the word “organic” in Regenerative Organic Certification has been given the full blessing by the USDA.

3) There are three levels of ROC – Gold, Silver and Bronze. Gold has incredibly stringent requirements for soil health and animal welfare, and any company that achieves this level will definitely be able to charge premium pricing in the marketplace.

4) When asked how the ROA is dealing with the fraudulent organic grains from abroad and glyphosate contamination issues, the ROA said that it is aware of these problems and has discussed them. However, no decisions have been made just yet as to how ROC will address them. Two other significant problems in organic, hydroponics and factory farms, are both prohibited in ROC.

Organic Insider will keep you posted about any further developments with ROC, as it is sure to be one of the most talked about programs in the organic industry during 2019 and beyond.


This past weekend, I was at the Rodale Institute for its 8th Annual Organic Pioneer Awards Dinner, and it was a very special night. If you truly love organic food, this is one place that is an absolute must-visit, as it is where the organic movement was started in the U.S.

The three recipients of this year’s awards were Arran Stephens, founder and Co-CEO of Nature’s Path; Mas Masumoto of Masumoto Family Farm; and William Liebhardt, former director of the University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program at the University of California, Davis. Unfortunately, William Liebhardt was unable to attend the dinner.

(with Arjan Stephens, Arran Stephens)


(Mas Masumoto)


(We were all taken to dinner by a tractor.)


(Dinner, inside the stone barn)


(The stone barn – one gorgeous building)


Lastly, I just got to Baltimore to attend Natural Products Expo East and would love to say hello to anyone that is here. For sure, I will be at Dr. Bronner’s Regenerative Organic Happy Hour on Friday.

Have a great day!

Max Goldberg, Founder

This Week's News Items

Weekly News Summaries

First Course
Center for Food Safety

Center for Food Safety Files Lawsuit Over GMO-Labeling Delay

The Center for Food Safety has filed a motion for summary judgment on its federal lawsuit against the USDA for failing to issue the GMO food disclosure law by the mandatory deadline of July 29, 2018.

Food Dive

Organic Trade Association to Pursue Voluntary Check-Off

By Cathy Siegner

Organic Insider made the case for the OTA to pursue a voluntary check-off in May. Four months later, that is what the organization is now doing.

Sustainable Pulse

Bob's Red Mill Facing Class Action Lawsuit Over Glyphosate Contamination

Bob's Red Mill is facing a class action lawsuit because glyphosate was found in its organic and non-organic oats.

Capital Press

$18M Fine Against the GMA is Reversed

By Don Jenkins

A court just rejected the $18M fine against the Grocery Manufacturers Association, who was found guilty for violating campaign laws during the State of Washington's 2012 GMO-labeling initiative.

Second Course
The Journal Times

Convenience Stores are Catering to Millennials, Going Organic

By Kelli Kennedy

Convenience stores are finally getting the message and are catering to millennials, who prefer healthy and organic options.

Supermarket News

Aldi Makes Major Push into Fresh and Organic

By Russell Redman

Supermarket chain Aldi has launched a major product expansion, focusing on fresh, organic and easy-to-prepare offerings.

Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance

Explaining the Crisis in the Organic Dairy Movement

By Mark Kastel

The Cornucopia's Mark Kastel discusses why the organic dairy industry is facing such problems and who is to blame for this.

Third Course
CBC News

4.5 Tons of GE-Salmon Sold in Canada. But to Whom?

By Michael Drapack

AquaBounty, the owner of GE-salmon, claims that it has sold 4.5 tons of GE-salmon so far this year but refuses to name the buyers.

Civil Eats

Legendary Organic Farmer Warren Weber Talks About the Future of Food

By Naomi Starkman

77-year-old organic farmer Warren Weber, who sold his Star Route farms for $10 million to the University of San Francisco last year, gives his take on hydroponics and farming as a young person today.


Whole Foods Workers Set up Forum on Slack, Seek to Unionize

By Lauren Hirsch and Dawn Kopecki

Whole Foods workers, fighting for better pay, benefits and profit sharing, have set up a forum on messaging app Slack called Whole Worker and are attempting to unionize.

The material in this newsletter is copyrighted and may be reprinted by permission only. All requests must be in writing. Please use our contact form to request republication rights.

Share This Newsletter

Share This

Search Newsletter Archive

Newsletter Archive

This Week's Quick Hits

Quick Hits

* Today in The Wall Street Journal, the Organic Trade Association has taken out a full-page ad, pushing back against recent misleading and derogatory attacks on organic. The move comes on the heels of an op-ed and a letter to the editor published in The Wall Street Journal that disparaged the organic industry and accused it of “lying” to consumers.

* For the second year in a row, Natural Grocers is sponsoring a month-long national fundraiser for the Organic Farmers Association, with a goal of raising $50,000.

* The Canadian government is celebrating Organic Week, September 8-16.

* In an attempt to broaden its appeal, Temple Turmeric has rebranded itself as Temple.

* Fair World Project, the leading fair trade advocacy organization, has released a new report providing an in-depth analysis of existing fair trade standards, and the group is calling on Costco to leverage its buying power to better support farming communities who produce cocoa.

* Patagonia has released a documentary called Blue Heart, which shines a light on the work being done to protect Europe’s last wild rivers, all in the Balkans, from the threat of 3,000 hydropower dam projects. It features a group of women from a small Bosnian village who have stood guard on a bridge to the town for 24 hours a day, for more than 300 days, in order to deny access to construction crews set to begin building a major hydropower dam project on the Kruščica river.

* Thanks to Thrive Market’s Jeremiah McElwee who gave me the tip that Expo East 2020 will be relocating to Philadelphia.

* After 59 years in business, the natural foods market Full O’ Life in Burbank, CA will be closing its doors.

* The New York Coffee Festival will be taking place October 12-14.

Newsletter Topics

Organic Insider