Certified Transitional Initiatives: Unlimited Potential to Change the Organic Food Sector

Hundreds are expected to turn out for a panel session at the upcoming Organic & Non-GMO Forum that will address certified transitional, a new process spearheaded by Kellogg-owned Kashi in which a third party certification company monitors and approves farms that are transitioning from conventional to organic.

The 2nd Annual Organic & Non-GMO Forum 2016, to be held November 14-15, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis, is the only domestic conference of its kind, bringing together stakeholders across the organic and non-GMO value chain, from production to packaging.

The comprehensive nature of this event pushes beyond the typical material in consumer-focused organic/non-GMO events, exploring the interconnected nature of the markets, trade, transportation, policy, and technology. From the ballroom to the hallways, both domestic and international stakeholders create unparalleled networking and business.

The diverse speaking faculty addresses growing opportunities for foreign and domestic stakeholders, plus best practices insights on the challenges that remain. This includes experts from Kashi, Amy’s Kitchen, and the Organic Trade Association, who will shed light on certified transitional, the newest initiative in the organic food sector.

The group will cover the various certified transitional initiatives currently affecting the marketplace as well as review the programs available to farmers and the impact on organic supply. They also will take a look at what’s coming next.

Certified transitional will fill the void between the estimated $39 billion organic food market and the less than 1 percent of U.S. farms that are certified organic*. Currently, it takes three years of organic harvests for farmers to leave behind conventional status and to achieve the official organic label. This means that the first and second harvests must be sold as conventional products, despite their organic production methods. Now, producers in the midst of transition will see a more immediate return on investment. For Kashi, this means that they will pay certified transitional farmers a price that is “somewhere between the price for conventional and the price for USDA certified organic,” Kashi CEO David Denholm told CNBC earlier this year.

At the Organic & Non-GMO Forum, HighQuest Group has brought together the esteemed experts on the Certified Transitional, including:

  • Tina Owens, senior manager of sustainability at Kashi. Owens has worked for Kellogg’s for 14 years and currently manages the certified transitional farmer program. She implemented the first round of non-GMO product verification work in 2011 and continued to support the Non-GMO Project Renovation work for the full Kashi portfolio. In addition, for the last six years, she has directly managed the supply chains for such brands as Bear Naked, Stretch Island Fruit Company, and Pure Organics brands. She also is responsible for the sustainability strategy of these brands.
  • Nathaniel Lewis, senior crops and livestock specialist for the Organic Trade Association (OTA). Lewis provides staff support to OTA's Farmer Advisory Council, on-the-ground outreach to OTA's organic farmer membership community, and analysis of policy issues that affect organic crop and livestock producers. He interacts directly with government officials and the organic supply chain on behalf of the grower segment of OTA’s membership. Prior to his current position, Lewis served as certification coordinator for Washington State Department of Agriculture's organic certification program.
  • Anna Jesus, senior director of quality systems at Amy's Kitchen. With over 18 years in the food industry, Jesus has worked in several commodities and FPG companies through the U.S. food industry, including working in quality assurance at Superior Foods Company and ConAgra Foods. Throughout her career, she has focused on building strong, sustainable process and systems development, both domestically and on a global scale.

CCOF will present at a separate session on the challenges along the value chain for certified transitional, immediately preceding the panel discussion on certified transitional. April Crittenden, CCOF’s director of farm certification, will speak at the session on Monday, November 14, at 1:45 p.m.

Crittenden brings wealth of knowledge regarding the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) and environmental stewardship in farming systems. Crittenden’s career at CCOF began nine years ago as a grower certification specialist, where she gained an understanding of organic certification for both growers and livestock producers and played an integral role in the implementation of improved client communication systems and the development of certification content for the CCOF website. After moving into the quality and compliance supervisor role at CCOF, Crittenden was responsible for overseeing all complaints, investigations, and helped develop CCOF’s pesticide residue and GMO sampling programs. Crittenden received a Bachelor of Arts degree in environmental studies and anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She also has certificates in permaculture design; NOP and Accredited Certifier Association trainings; and International Organic Inspectors Association inspection certifications for crop, basic postharvest handling/processing, and sample collection.

Learn more at www.ongforum.com, and also visit the Oilseed & Grain Trade Summit, which is co-located at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis with the forum. 

*According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture

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This article was submitted by the Organic & Non-GMO Forum. 

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