In March, The National Organic Program (NOP) released 17 training modules on the NOP website in Spanish for 50 participants from Latin American countries who gathered in Costa Rica for the National Organic Program's Spanish language certifier training.
It's nice to see NOP finally release some Spanish guides. They estimate that later in 2014 they'll be releasing Spanish versions of the USDA organic regulations and the NOP Program Handbook. Currently you can check out the Certifier Training Modules in Spanish here (pdf).
USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) of USDA has released the 2014 Request for Applications for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP).
Organizations can apply to BFRDP for grants to provide education, training, technical assistance and outreach for U.S. farmers, ranchers, and managers of non-industrial private forest land who have been farming or ranching for 10 years or less and those who aim to start. There's priority given to projects that are partnerships and collaborations led by or including non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, and school-based agricultural educational organizations with expertise in new agricultural producer training and outreach.
$19.2 million is available for 2014 awards and at 5% of this money must go to programs and services for limited-resource and socially-disadvantaged beginning farmers and ranchers and farmworkers. Another 5% is mandated to programming and services for military veteran farmers and ranchers.
If you're interested, you can attend one of the two webinars NIFA is hosting. One is on April 30 and the other on May 6 at 2:00 p.m. EDT.
About the program:
"The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, appropriated $75 million for FY 2009 to FY 2012 to develop and offer education, training, outreach and mentoring programs to enhance the sustainability of the next generation of farmers. The Agriculture Act of 2014 provided an additional $20 million per year for 2014 through 2018. The reasons for the renewed interest in beginning farmer and rancher programs are: the rising average age of U.S. farmers, the 8% projected decrease in the number of farmers and ranchers between 2008 and 2018, and the growing recognition that new programs are needed to address the needs of the next generation of beginning farmers and ranchers."
Applications are due June 12!
As an organic producer or handler, there are plenty of ways to get educated, or improve upon your skill sets. You can attend a university program, try out an organic internship or stay on top of organic trends and skills via reading material. Check out the resources below!
- Best Organic Business Newsletters
- Top Universities Offering Organic Education Program
- The Organic Farming Manual
- Top 10 Books for Organic Farmers
- 10 U.S. Colleges That Offer Organic Agricultural Programs
- Attend workshops - check out Rodale or Organic Trade Association for workshop ideas.
- Top Online Publications for Organic Farmers
As an organic company you're probably not truly thinking about eco-business aspects all the time, but it's a wise move to at least consider how green practices may affect your business image. Research shows that consumers interested in organics are also interested in eco-practices.
One way to show customers that you're on board with green business practices is to get listed in the National Green Pages, an eco-minded directory, showcasing green businesses. Of course, your business needs to be eco-friendly to get listed, but if you are listed, you can expand your consumer marketing reach.
National Organic Program (NOP) temporary variances are pretty simple. In general, variances include any practices or requirements that vary from set production and handling requirements of the USDA organic regulations §§205.203 through 205.207, 205.236 through 205.240 and 205.270 through 205.272 for a specific time period.
Temporary variances are granted (or in some cases, not granted) by the Administrator for issues like natural disasters and other problems organic businesses run into.
To learn more about how to request a temporary variance, what forms are needed and so on, read: What are NOP Temporary Variances?
Not all organic businesses need to become certified, but in many cases, certification will apply. Exceptions usually include being exempt or processing a non-agricultural organic products.
However, even if you don't need organic certification via National Organic Program (NOP) policy, it's a wise move to seriously consider getting certified. Getting certified is much more than a simple organic label, it's also a move that shows consumers, not to mention your organic peers, that you are dedicated to organic integrity.
Learn more: Does Your Business Need to be Certified Organic?
Typically as an organic selling point, I don't suggest you promote "nutrition" over other organic aspects, simply because of all the organic perks, nutrition is the perk that's least supported by hardcore evidence. Still, if you're an organic business owner or a consumer interested in the benefits of organics, consider that while numerous debates about the nutritional aspects of organic food swirl about, there are some real nutrition benefits of organics.
First off eating poison (pesticides) is FAR from nutritious. Secondly, while organic nutrition research is highly debated, there are some studies that show off some key nutritional benefits of eating organic over conventional, such as...
- Many organic berries are more nutritious than conventional.
- Scientific findings confirm that organic food production results in high nutritional quality.
- Blueberries grown organically have significantly higher fructose and glucose levels, malic acid, total phenolics, total anthocyanins and antioxidant levels than conventional blueberries.
- Organic foods have around 25% higher concentration of 11 key nutrients than the same conventional food items.
See more evidence about organic nutrition here: Is Organic Food More Nutritious than Conventional?
You can join representatives from USDA agencies engaged in supporting organic agriculture for a Stakeholders Listening Session on organic provisions in the Agricultural Act of 2014. USDA is hoping to hear various individual thoughts on the implementation process and the impact it will have on the communities that folks serve. Details of this event are below.
- Date: Monday, April 14, 2014
- Time: 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm EST
- Where: USDA South Building. Room TBD; U.S. Department of Agriculture - 1400 Independence Avenue, SW. - Washington, DC 20250
There is limited room for in-person attendees, so if you'd like to attend, you should RSVP to receive the call-in number and room asap, or at the latest, 12pm on Thursday, April 10. Email your RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please indicate in your RSVP if you require a call-in number. All questions about the event can be emailed to email@example.com.
- Policy Analysts, Accreditation Managers, and Materials Specialists (all may be listed in USAJobs under the title "Agricultural Marketing Specialists" - read the announcement for the more specific role)
- Compliance and Enforcement Specialists (may be listed as "Compliance Officer")
- Communication, Outreach, Training Specialist
- Program Analysts and Administrative Support
All job announcement postings can be seen in full on usajobs.gov.
The National Organic Program (NOP) has just updated the NOP 2000: "Accreditation Policies and Procedures" document. The updated instruction offers up some general policies and procedures for organizations seeking or maintaining accreditation as NOP certifiers.
NOP notes that now the instruction have been revised with a goal of maximizing the efficiency of the accreditation process and integrating the newer Sound and Sensible principles into accreditation activities.
Download the pdf here: "Accreditation Policies and Procedures" document (pdf).