Did you know that less than 1 percent of U.S. farmland is organic? Consumers are demanding more organic food but because of the shortage in organic farmland, access to organic food is limited to those who can afford the premium pricing. A new program now supports growing more organic crops and making more organic products available on grocery shelves.
The QAI Certified Transitional program developed by NSF offers farmers a viable option to grow and sell their crops as they transition their land to be eligible for organic certification. Buying products with this Certified Transitional mark supports everyone—including farmers, processors, handlers and distributors—who work to bring more organic products to the marketplace.
Transitional crops are basically “organic-in-training.” Before crops can be certified organic, they must be “transitioned.” This is a three-year process during which farmers’ land and crops must not be treated with prohibited substances.
QAI Certified Transitional provides an independent verification that farmers, processors, handlers and distributors all comply with increasingly stringent rules during the transition. This allows farmers to sell their crops to processors as Certified Transitional, and allows distributors to mark products as Certified Transitional. This creates financial incentive for farmers and will increase both organic acreage and organic options in the store.
Certified Transitional is step-by-step program that calls on farmers to adhere to increasingly stringent requirements during the three years of transition. Consumers can rely on specific, meaningful benchmarks throughout this process:
Year 1 – Farmers immediately discontinue the use of prohibited synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and begin the process of rebuilding healthy soil biology. Land must be farmed without the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or sewage sludge.
Year 2 – Education supports the transitional process, helping farmers to fine-tune the transitional plan and implement best practices that maintain or improve the natural resources of the farm operation, including soil and water quality. In year 2, crops may be sold as Certified Transitional to processors.
Year 3 – By the end of year 3 of successful participation, the farm is managed according to organic crop production methods. The farmer has worked diligently to reach this milestone: Three years after the last prohibited substance was applied, the land is eligible for organic certification.
Each year, the farm may be inspected to verify that it is successfully implementing the transitional requirements.
QAI Certified Transitional products are clearly marked on the product label. Specific label marks and claims differ depending on the total amount of transitional ingredients in the product.
Two types of “Transitional” products will appear in the marketplace. The first type will have between 25 and 51% transitional content and will be labeled with claims such as “contains 45 percent transitional ingredients” and the transitional ingredients can be listed on the back of the package.
The second type of products contain between 51% and 100% certified transitional ingredients. These products carry the green Certified Transitional mark on the front of the package and may also make claims such as “contains 74 percent transitional ingredients” or “Made with Transitional barley.”