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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.

Saffron Road’s New Plant-Based Protein Snacks & Frozen Bowls

Saffron Road, the fastest growing brand of premium frozen entrees, will introduce its newly expanded plant-based protein snacks line, which includes innovative ChickBean Crisps, in addition to a new frozen meals line, at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco from January 2-24.

Like all Saffron Road products, the new snacks and frozen bowls were created with the utmost commitment to authenticity, quality, transparency and culinary excellence to capitalize on the growing popularity of clean label better-for-you products in the U.S.

The ChickBean Crisps come in three flavors, Sea Salt, White Cheddar, Zesty Ranch, and all are certified halal, OU kosher, and gluten free. Since they’re primarily made from legumes, each one-ounce serving of Saffron Road ChickBean Crisps contains four grams of protein, two grams of fiber and only a few grams of fat – making them a nutritious and unique find in the snack aisle.

Saffron Road’s new World Cuisine meals, in an on-trend bowl format, come in eight delicious flavors:  Sesame Ginger Salmon with White Rice, Lemongrass Basil Fish with Rice Noodles, Thai Red Curry Fish with Rice Noodles, Masala Curry Fish with White Rice, Grilled Vegetable Tortilla Bake, Verde Tortilla Bake with Chicken, Thai-Style Mango Chicken, and Korean-Style Sweet Chile Chicken. All of the fish sourced is wild Alaskan caught and packed with Omega-3s, and the chicken is antibiotic free. All of the ingredients are authentic – to keep in line with the high culinary excellence all Saffron Road products must adhere to.

While the four fish bowl meals are already on shelf at Whole Foods Market®, the ChickBean Crisps and the remaining four new bowls will launch this January and April respectively.

For more information about Saffron Road’s new snack products, visit saffronroadfood.com. You can also follow the brand on Facebook at facebook.com/saffronroadfood, on Twitter at twitter.com/saffronroadfood, on Pinterest at pinterest.com/saffronroadfood or on Instagram at Instagram.com/saffronroadfood.

Premium Selection of Seasonings & Rubs in Retail-Friendly Plastic Jars

The Spice Lab has introduced a new retail-friendly packaging option for its award-winning line of premium spice blends and barbecue rubs. Each plastic jar with shaker top holds up to 7 ounces of gourmet seasoning and sells for a suggested retail price of $6.99 each. A free-standing shipper display, which holds 60 jars, also is being introduced for 2017.  The selection includes:

Blackened Seasoning – New for 2017: The perfect herb and spice blend for the Cajun cooking technique of blackening.

Caribbean Jerk Seasoning – 2017 Scovie Award Winner: Create classic island dishes with this spicy mixture. Try on chicken, pork and seafood.

Best of the Bay Seafood Seasoning – 2016 Scovie Award Winner: A classic blend of paprika and other spices, perfect for seafood.

Tropical Citrus Seafood Seasoning:Bright fruit flavors and island spices in this tasty blend.

Key West Classic Seasoning: Flavorful blend of onion, garlic, thyme, parsley & other spices.

Spicy Seafood Seasoning: Black pepper, garlic, thyme and other spices.

Salt Free Citrus & Dill Seafood Seasoning: Maximum flavor without the salt – great as a rub or marinade for salmon and shrimp.

Everglades Chicken and Gator Rub: A spicy medley of onion, bell peppers, black pepper and other flavorful seasonings.

Country Style Honey Mustard Seasoning: Pungent mustard and sweet honey balance this blend.

Classic Steakhouse Seasoning: A traditional blend of sea salt, spices and colorful peppercorns.

Firecracker Spicy Steak Seasoning – 2016 Scovie Award Winner: A sizzling mix of hot cayenne pepper and other spices.

Ancho Chili & Coffee Seasoning – 2016 Hot Pepper Award: Sweet and smoky mix of dried Poblano peppers, coffee and other spices.

South Beach Mango Chipotle Seasoning – 2015 Hot Pepper Award: Sweet tropical fruit, chipotle pepper and mesquite.

Italian Rustica Seasoning: A Mediterranean mix of thyme, oregano and other spices.

Bad to the Bone Seasoning: A subtle spice blend infusing flavor in every bite.

Spanish Chorizo Seasoning: Garlic, paprika, red pepper, coriander and more.

Retailers can build their own assortment for The Spice Lab’s Gourmet Seasoning display. Choose up to a maximum of four spice blends (15 jars each) to customize the display to best to appeal to the local market. Shippers will be available by January 30.

As a woman-owned and family-run business, The Spice Lab takes great pride in offering the widest selection of sea salts from a single source. Its every expanding line of products include peppers, spices, seasonings, rubs, gourmet gift collections, Himalayan salt shot glasses and plates, regional brands, private label, a wide array of corporate gifts and much more.

All products are processed and packaged in its HACCP certified manufacturing facility in Pompano Beach, Florida. The company’s high quality line of products can be found in grocery, gourmet, specialty gift shops, foodservice, club, major retailers and online through Amazon.com as well as www.thespicelab.com

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