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|
|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|
|Horizon Organic||Grass-Fed Dairy // Milk & Yogurt||Iowa, Michigan|
|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.|
* 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.
A FEW THINGS OF NOTE
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)
(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
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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, 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.
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* 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.