The U.S. organic food industry is booming, and sales grow each year. In 2015, the industry reached a new benchmark of $43.3 billion in sales, up 11 percent from 2014. Despite unprecedented growth, supply issues persist. "Going organic" is not as simple as it sounds. Farmers incur significant effort and cost to make the transition from conventional to organic and it's not always obvious how it pays off.
The Organic Trade Association says: "Dairy and grains were two areas where [organic food sales] growth could have been even more robust in 2015 if greater supply had been available. There is an industry-wide understanding of the need to build a secure supply chain that can support demand. This goes hand-in-hand with securing more organic acreage, developing programs to help farmers transition to organic, and encouraging new farmers to farm organically."
It takes a minimum of three years for a farm to become certified organic - a so-called "transition period". During this time the farmer incurs costs without the benefit of being able to use the organic label on her crops. Financial and logistical hurdles make it a daunting process with many upfront costs. Organic farming doesn't necessarily equate to larger profits either. But if there were an added incentive to help make the transition, it might help move things along and help farmers profit in the interim.
This issue is precisely what motivated Kashi to launch its Certified Transitional protocol and the first Certified Transitional product – and it looks like a tasty one. Kashi’s new Dark Cocoa Karma Shredded Wheat Biscuits features Certified Transitional ingredients that help increase access to organic foods.
“The health of people and the health of our planet are inextricably linked,” said David Denholm, CEO of Kashi. “One percent organic acreage is just not enough – and we want to promote solutions that benefit everyone working to move organic farming forward. We believe championing farms in transition will make organic foods more accessible and support a more sustainable food system – for all of us.”
Kashi is working with Quality Assurance International (QAI), which developed the Certified Transitional protocol after input from Hesco/Dakota Organic Products, agricultural suppliers, a global environmental NGO, farmers, retailers, distributors and food companies. The program allows products that contain at least 51 percent transitional ingredients to use the QAI Transitional mark on the package.
The idea is that premium pricing will be passed down to the farmer, adding an incentive for transitioning their farms to organic. Farmers must agree to immediately discontinue the use of prohibited synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and grow crops without the use of the GMO seeds. The farmland must be managed organically during the three-year period. Farmers are expected to graduate from the program at the end of three years, once they are certified organic.
“Transitioning to organic isn’t easy – farmers must invest in new infrastructure, create new business plans, and even obtain new crop insurance and financing. That all starts day one when they begin converting to organic, but they don’t see the financial benefit of organic prices for three years,” said Brad Hennrich, president at Hesco/Dakota Organic Products, a specialty grain company. “Certified Transitional provides a revenue opportunity and roadmap for farmers looking to transition that simply didn’t exist before.”
Image credit: Pixabay
Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.