A programme is being launched in the US that aims to boost organic agricultural production in the country by providing farmers with additional support while they transition from conventional to organic farming.

The US Department of Agriculture, in partnership with the Organic Trade Association, has launched the National Certified Transitional Program (NCTP) to provide transitional certification to farmers moving to organic production. 

“USDA is excited to work with the Organic Trade Association on the National Certified Transitional Program, providing producers with a consistent transitional standard to market their products,” said USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service administrator Elanor Starmer. “This programme will help those transitioning to organic agriculture, encourage domestic production of organic products, and ultimately support the continued growth of organic agriculture in the United States.”

Under US organic regulations, farmers must complete a 36-month long transition period before they can gain organic certification. The NCTP will allow farmers to secure a “premium price” for products while they undergo this process, providing a further financial incentive to convert production to organic, the OTA suggested. 

The OTA said it designed the certified transitional programme to create a “consistent mechanism” for certifying agencies to document operations’ adherence to organic regulations on land in transition to organic status. This message was echoed in a notice to the trade published by USDA. The department said the new programme “will facilitate the investment in transitional agriculture through a consistent set of rules.”

The NCTP does not, however, provide labelling standards or criteria for products certified under the programme. 

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“The transitional certification programme developed by OTA… will provide an on-ramp to producers while safeguarding organic as the gold standard of food label claims,” said Nate Lewis, farm policy director for OTA.

In the US, demand for organic products is growing faster than supply, with annual organic sales growth in the double digits, according to the organic industry body.