If you are a consumer or participant in the organic industry, something new is set to hit the marketplace that you absolutely want to know about and it is called the Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC).
Started by three organisations — Patagonia, Dr Bronner’s and Rodale Institute — the certification aims to raise the bar for what organic represents.
But contrary to what one might believe, it is not a substitution for the USDA organic seal. Instead, it adds onto the USDA organic seal and is referred to as an “add-on” label. The USDA organic seal is a requirement, or a baseline, for a company to receive the ROC certification.
According to Elizabeth Whitlow, the Executive Director of the Regenerative Organic Alliance (ROA), the non-profit organisation that started and oversees ROC.
ROA was created because our world is facing big issues, both environmentally and socially, and regenerative organic agriculture has the potential to address both.
It is our goal to create the highest organic standard in the world and we are not out to replace the USDA organic seal. We want to keep organic strong and add the critical social requirements, along with more robust soil/land management and animal welfare practices.
The unfortunate reality is that industrial, pesticide-intensive agriculture and the factory farming of animals (CAFOs) are top contributors to climate change and our conventional farming system has degraded our soil to dangerous levels around the world. Additionally, farmers and farmworkers are often exploited by those trying to cut a profit above all else and rural economies in the US. and across the globe are suffering.
It is imperative that we change our food and fibre systems, with regenerative organic becoming the new model. If this happens, we will see serious improvements to soil health and the well-being of animals, farmers, workers and the climate itself.
“ROC certifies agricultural products (food, fibre and botanicals) and all ROC-certified brands must have obtained USDA organic certification. ROC then adds additional criteria on top of the USDA organic seal to make sure farmers are actively building soil health, using animals in concert with nature to enhance the land, caring for animal welfare, and treating their workers fairly”, says Whitlow.
There are three levels to ROC: Bronze, Silver and Gold. Farms and brands qualify for different levels based on certain criteria that they are able to meet. Gold is very difficult to achieve – on purpose — but we should look to Gold-certified farms as models on how to achieve a more regenerative system in the future.
“In 2019, we conducted a pilot with 19 farms and brands in seven countries. The farms produced everything from dairy products, mangoes, cereal grains and more. We wanted to represent as many sectors of agriculture as possible,” says Whitlow.
Several farms and brands that participated in the pilot are ready to receive certification, which is really exciting! There should be at least a half dozen ROC products on the market within the next few months.
With so much demand for ROC, we are now actively working to build the infrastructure to support this demand. Fortunately, we already have four stellar certifiers and a team of trained auditors on board. We are aiming to have 100 ROC-certified operations by the end of 2020. Stay tuned!