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Regenerative Organic Certification label takes root

The goals of certification include growing soil organic matter and alleviating climate change effects.

John Vogel, Editor, American Agriculturist

March 8, 2018

2 Min Read
PEA-PICKING SUSTAINABILITY: ROC certification aims to generate living wages to farmers and workers.Rodale Institute

Move over, USDA Organic Program. Regenerative Organic Certification has higher standards. Years of organic labeling fraud and more recent Organic Trade Industry opposition to the National Organic Program’s approval of soil-less (hydroponic, aquaponic and aeroponic) growing systems and organic poultry production has seemingly accelerated development of ROC.

The ROC program was unveiled at this week’s Natural Products Expo West trade show. It’s owned by the Regenerative Organic Alliance, a nonprofit coalition of farmers, ranchers, scientists and brands. Its standards will be administered and audited by NSF International.

The alliance is led by Jeff Moyer, executive director of Rodale Institute as board chair, and spearheaded by Patagonia and Dr. Bronner’s. Other founding members include: Compassion in World Farming, Demeter, Fair World Project, Grain Place Foods, Maple Hill Creamery and White Oak Pastures.

“Farming can either create some of the world’s greatest challenges or solve them,” Moyer says. “Regenerative organic agriculture is our opportunity to solve them. It’s farming where more than yields and profit matter. Healthy soil, clean air and water are just as important. It’s farming where people and communities matter. It’s farming so we don’t just need to feed people for the next 100 years, but forever.”

Patagonia and Dr. Bronner’s teamed up with Rodale to create what the alliance calls an unprecedented effort to shake up and impact the sustainable food movements, even industrial agriculture, in profound ways. In brief, ROC’s core objectives are to:

• Increase soil organic matter over time.

• Sequester atmospheric carbon in soil, which at a global scale can help mitigate climate change.

• Model pasture-based animal welfare.

• Provide fair pricing standards plus a living wage for farmers, ranchers and workers.

• Create resilient regional ecosystems and communities.

Only products certified under USDA’s organic program are eligible to meet ROC’s criteria. Using that as a baseline, ROC standards address next-level soil health plus requirements for animal welfare and farm labor.

The social fairness pillar of the new label is entirely missing from USDA organic standards, Moyer says. It draws on international Fair Trade standards that protect growers in developing countries who are often exploited with harsh working conditions and meager compensation by big corporations.

ROC certification is open to any industry, brand and even certain manufacturing facilities. The plan is to have products on shelves within two years.

For more details, see Regenerative Organic Certification requirements or contact Jessica Evans at [email protected].

About the Author(s)

John Vogel

Editor, American Agriculturist

For more than 38 years, John Vogel has been a Farm Progress editor writing for farmers from the Dakota prairies to the Eastern shores. Since 1985, he's been the editor of American Agriculturist – successor of three other Northeast magazines.

Raised on a grain and beef farm, he double-majored in Animal Science and Ag Journalism at Iowa State. His passion for helping farmers and farm management skills led to his family farm's first 209-bushel corn yield average in 1989.

John's personal and professional missions are an integral part of American Agriculturist's mission: To anticipate and explore tomorrow's farming needs and encourage positive change to keep family, profit and pride in farming.

John co-founded Pennsylvania Farm Link, a non-profit dedicated to helping young farmers start farming. It was responsible for creating three innovative state-supported low-interest loan programs and two "Farms for the Future" conferences.

His publications have received countless awards, including the 2000 Folio "Gold Award" for editorial excellence, the 2001 and 2008 National Association of Ag Journalists' Mackiewicz Award, several American Agricultural Editors' "Oscars" plus many ag media awards from the New York State Agricultural Society.

Vogel is a three-time winner of the Northeast Farm Communicators' Farm Communicator of the Year award. He's a National 4-H Foundation Distinguished Alumni and an honorary member of Alpha Zeta, and board member of Christian Farmers Outreach.

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