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Organic

Wicked Joe Organic Coffees Celebrates New Look

Wicked Joe Organic Coffees, the family-owned, 100 percent organic certified, Fair Trade™ coffee roastery known for its single origin varietals and blends such as “Wicked French,” has rolled out new packaging after more than 12 years in business.

Wicked Joe coffee imageThe Wicked Joe product line – available at retail stores all over New England and in more than 1,500 grocery retailers nationwide as well as online – previously featured a black bag with a red and green coffee cup logo. Wicked Joe Organic Coffees now sports a cleaner, more modern look, including black and chrome brand elements and an array of accent colors indicating the individual blend, flavor or bean’s origin.

The company has grown and refined its operations significantly over the last decade, including increasing sales by 25 percent and growing capacity by 67 percent in 2016 alone. Owners Bob and Carmen Garver wanted a design that would more accurately reflect the roastery’s progress and focus on quality and professionalism.

“We are very excited about where we are with the business right now, and we think a fresh new look captures that feeling,” said Carmen Garver. “We worked collaboratively with our staff and explored many possibilities, and ultimately we wanted to communicate a vintage feel that could translate in today’s market.”

The colorful, lively nature of the new bags aims to stand out on retail shelves among dozens of competitors. Along with their ever-growing team of coffee experts, the Garvers have spent more than two decades – long before the Maine roastery opened – traveling the world in search of the highest quality coffee bean. From the beginning, the company has had a razor-sharp focus on quality, in addition to a commitment to community, farmers and the cooperative partners at bean origin.

“We are constantly evolving,” added Bob Garver. “Our close relationships with the farmers that grow our beans provide so many opportunities for sustainable business practices, education and above all else, inspiration for the next cup of joe.”
Wicked Joe’s new packaging is available in stores now. Visit www.wickedjoe.com for more information.

New Program Will Ease Farmers’ Transition to Organic Certification

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) announced a new partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help guide farmers transitioning into certified organic agricultural production.

Using standards developed by OTA, the National Certified Transitional Program (NCTP) will provide oversight to approved Accredited Organic Certifying Agents offering transitional certification to producers. This will help ease the transition process to organic, allow farmers to sell their products as certified transitional at a premium price and help encourage more organic production.

This announcement is an important step in helping to expand certified organic acreage in the United States. OTA designed the certified transitional program to create a consistent mechanism for certifying agencies to document operations’ adherence to organic regulations on land in transition to organic status. The new program provides certification and oversight to producers who are in transition to organic. It does not provide standards or criteria for labeling products certified under the program.

“The transitional certification program developed by OTA reflects perspectives from across the supply chain, and 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.

“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 program 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.”

In a “Notice to the Trade” published by USDA, the department said the new program “will facilitate the investment in transitional agriculture through a consistent set of rules.”

Farmers must undergo a rigorous and sometimes challenging transition period of 36 months before they can gain organic certification and market their products as certified organic. This newly created program at USDA will harmonize existing transitional certification programs currently operated by Accredited Certifying Agents and provide a mechanism for additional certifiers to offer this service to new clients. The program is recognized by the USDA Quality Systems Assessment Program, housed within the Agricultural Marketing Service branch. USDA will accredit organic certification agencies that comply with the National Certified Transitional Program criteria, enabling those agencies to conduct certification of producers operating in accordance with the OTA-developed standards.

Demand for organic products has continued to grow by double digits every year, far exceeding the domestic supply of organic ingredients. OTA has been engaged in multiple efforts to boost the growth of domestic organic acreage and sees a harmonized transitional certification program overseen by USDA as a critical piece of this complicated puzzle.

OTA submitted an application to USDA in May 2016–after over a year of work on behalf of its members through a Transitional task force–to create the transitional certification program, thereby building the foundation for a potential market for transitional products. A transitional product market can offer premiums to farmers in transition and assist in the financial barriers that transition poses.

The oversight provided by USDA to certifying agents offering transitional certification to producers will consist of certifier audits and a uniform transitional production standard for both crop and livestock producers. Farmers will need to prove their land has been free of prohibited substances (synthetic pesticides and fertilizers) for a minimum of 12 months and must follow all other organic production standards to achieve transitional certification, including crop rotation, the fostering and conserving of biodiversity, and the avoidance of the use of genetic engineering. Once eligible for organic certification, land can only enter into the transitional certification program one more time. This provision, unique to the standards developed by OTA, will ensure that transitional certification acts as an effective on-ramp to organic production rather than a mechanism to create an “organic-light” marketing term.

The new program does not include certification of products labeled as “transitional” in the marketplace and is limited only to producers working towards their own organic certification. OTA anticipates working with certifiers, food manufacturers, and retailers to develop appropriate market-driven guidelines for proper use of the term “transitional” on consumer packaged goods.

To streamline roll-out of this new program, USDA will accept applications for the first round from Accredited Certifying Agents through February 28 to gain oversight for the transitional program, and on-site reviews of these certifying agents will occur at their next organic accreditation audit. Further applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis.

This program dovetails with USDA’s announcement in December of last year that it would expand the reach of the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program to include transitional certification fees. USDA’s recent initiatives will bring more opportunity to farmers and handlers across the country, and they represent additional elements of solid federal support for the growth of the organic sector.

Animal Welfare Rules at Stake for Organic Livestock

By Lorrie Baumann

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is getting ready to release new regulations intended to ensure that consumers who buy organic meat, eggs and dairy products are getting products that came from animals that were treated humanely. At stake is possible adverse reaction from consumers who believe that organic certification already includes animal welfare rules – which it does – but who might be disappointed in the way that the rule is interpreted and applied by various organic producers. “This whole question of animal care and animal welfare is really important,” said Organic Trade Association Executive Director Laura Batcha, who cited a recent study funded by OTA which found that among the randomly selected consumer families with children in the home who were surveyed, the Millennial generation takes into consideration, not just possible pesticide contamination, but also animal welfare, environmental benefits and possible exposure to antibiotics as criteria for their decisions to buy organic items.

The organic industry wants to get ahead of that potential backlash by clarifying the existing standards so that the rules mean the same thing to all organic farmers and can be enforced consistently and fairly across the nation. “What we’ve heard from the National Organic Program was that they’re intending to finalize the rule by the end of the year,” said Nate Lewis, the Organic Trade Association’s Farm Policy Director.

The proposed rule is opposed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, which argue that the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 doesn’t give the USDA the authority to prescribe practices to promote animal welfare. “With regard to livestock, the National Organic Program’s coverage should be limited to feeding and medication practices,” Indiana Pork Advocacy Coalition wrote in its comment on the proposed rule. “Animal welfare standards not relating to feeding and mediation are not within the scope of the [Organic Food Production] Act and should be removed from this proposed rule.” Organic industry advocates are anticipating that once the final rule is issued, its opponents may sponsor a Congressional lobbying effort to attach riders onto next year’s national budget and appropriations bills that could prohibit the USDA from spending money to enforce the rule.

Lewis anticipates that under the final rule, farmers will have one year to comply with most of its provisions, three years to comply with the rules for outdoor space requirements and five years to comply with the rules about indoor stocking densities. The three-year delay for the outdoor space requirement will give farmers who need to add land to their operations enough time to meet the three-year requirement for organic certification, and the five-year delay for indoor stocking densities will give poultry farmers enough time to get their money’s worth out of the barns they’ve already built, which are, on average, seven years old. They have a depreciation life of 12 years, so a five-year delay in the requirement that they provide more space will mean that they get the full 12 years of life that are allowed by depreciation rules.

The regulations for organic livestock already require that the animals must be raised in an environment that allows animals to express natural behaviors such as spreading their wings and having the space to lie down naturally. They must be provided with adequate health care and protection from conditions that can jeopardize the animals’ wellbeing, such as predators and blizzards. The proposed rule is designed to clarify those existing requirements so they’re enforceable and transparent, “bolstering consumer confidence and strengthening the market for organic products,” according to the USDA, which published the proposed rule in April of this year.

The USDA received more than 6,000 public comments on the proposed rule, which would apply only to animals for which farmers receive organic certification, a voluntary program – it wouldn’t set up a mandatory standard for other livestock operations. According to the USDA, “the proposal aims to clarify how organic producers and handlers must treat livestock and poultry to ensure their health and wellbeing throughout life, including transport and slaughter.” It addresses the areas of the animals’ living conditions, health care, transport and slaughter. Among other things, it would clarify the existing regulation that organic livestock must have year-round access to the outdoors. This proposed rule specifies that “outdoors” means that the animals have to be allowed to go out into areas where they can see and feel the sun overhead and the soil beneath their feet – access to an open-air shelter or a porch with a concrete floor and a roof overhead wouldn’t qualify. Other provisions would set minimum standards for how much space is required for each chicken or turkey in a poultry barn, would require that organic pigs have dirt to root around in and would prohibit the transportation of sick, injured or lame animals for sale or slaughter and the use of cattle prods on sensitive parts of the animal.

The proposed rule follows recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board, a federal advisory committee of 15 citizens appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture that includes representation from the various stakeholders involved in the organic industry, including farmers, handlers, a retailer, a certifier, scientists, a natural resource conservationist and a consumer. The Board has been working on development of animal welfare standards for 10 years, Lewis said. “It’s all very transparent.”

The rule’s supporters include the OTA, which represents organic businesses, including growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers’ associations and others involved in producing and selling organic products across the 50 states, and by The Humane Society of the United States, the country’s largest animal protection organization, which said in its comments on the proposed rule that “The HSUS supports higher animal welfare standards for the National Organic Program (NOP) and supports finalization of the proposed rule. In some areas, however, we advocate for stronger changes or wording clarification.”

Perdue Farms, which is the largest provider of organic-certified broiler chickens in the U.S., also supports the proposed rule, except that the company would prefer that the USDA lengthen the amount of time it would give broiler operations to reduce their indoor stocking rate from the 6 pounds (of poultry) per square foot that Perdue says is the current industry standard recognized by the animal welfare certifier Global Animal Partnership to the proposed rule’s level of 5 pounds per square feet to three years instead of the one-year timeframe specified in the rule. To adjust to the 5 pounds per square foot rule, the family farmers who supply Perdue Farms’ chickens will need to add at least the equivalent of 65 additional barns at a cost of more than $25 million to their operations. They won’t be able to do that with only one year’s notice, so if the rule goes into effect with the one year timeframe, they’d have to reduce their flocks, which would effectively reduce the country’s supply of organic broiler chicken by 20 percent, according to Perdue.

Nevertheless, “Perdue supports the NOP’s desire to strengthen what it means to carry the Organic seal. These proposed standards will significantly differentiate organic growing practices from conventional operations and meet consumer expectations that Organic production meet a uniform and verifiable animal welfare standard. We are with you; we need the 3 year timeframe to make it happen,” Perdue said in its comments to the USDA.

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