U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Marketing and Regulatory Programs Under Secretary Jenny Lester Moffitt today announced funding of $1.73 million for nine projects to improve the oversight capacity of the organic industry by supporting and expanding the pool of qualified inspectors, reviewers, and other professionals who oversee organic production now and in the future. The funded projects provide support across the human capital pipeline, from initial workforce development to creating resources for existing professionals.

“Organic farmers, ranchers, businesses and consumers all rely on a fair and competitive organic market founded on the work of skilled certifiers and inspectors,” said Lester Moffitt. “The projects also emphasize diversity and inclusion to address the needs of historically underserved communities and regions. We are building tools to strengthen today’s organic inspectors, and to develop the next generation of diverse, well-qualified organic professionals.”

The Human Capital Capacity Building Initiative is managed by the Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program (NOP). It was launched to support the long-term growth of the organic industry by expanding the pool of well qualified organic oversight professionals who ensure consistency, fairness, and the integrity of the system. The initiative also supports the Biden-Harris Administration priority to ensure racial equity by removing barriers to access and building inclusive programs.

Participating organizations will develop capacity-building projects to enable the growth of an organic certification workforce to meet the evolving needs of the organic sector. These projects will support creation of training and educational programs, recruitment strategies, mentorship opportunities, inspector apprenticeships, and professional development resources. Resources developed through the initiative will become public resources made available through AMS.

Funded projects include:

  • Nourishing the Future Organic Inspector: A Mentorship Pilot and Southern States Recruitment and Training Program. Project lead: California Certified Organic Farmers Foundation with partners: Southeastern African American Farmers’ Organic Network, National Center for Appropriate Technology – Gulf States Region and Farmshare Austin.
  • Deploying a Systems Framework for Classroom and Field-based Organic Agriculture Education. Project lead: Tuskegee University.
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Resources for Organic Professionals. Project Lead: Organic Farmers Association with partners: Cambium Collective, Accredited Certifiers Association, IFOAM North America, International Organic Inspectors Association and the National Organic Coalition.
  • Providing High School and Postsecondary Students with Employment Opportunities in the Organic Industry: A Career Educational Technical Model for Organic Technicians/Inspectors. Project lead: Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers with partners: University of Florida and University of Hawaii.
  • Bridging the Gaps: Enhancing Organic Programs in Postsecondary Education to Expand and Diversify the Certification Workforce Pipeline. Project lead: Oregon Tilth with partners: Oregon State University, Iowa State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison and the International Organic Inspectors Association.
  • Developing Cooperative Support for Organic Professionals. Project lead: Northwest Cooperative Development Center with partners: Organic Integrity Cooperative Guild, U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives, Aligned Law and the International Organic Inspectors Association.
  • Building a Sustainable and Inclusive Apprenticeship Program for Organic Inspectors and Other Organic Professionals. Project lead: International Organic Inspectors Association with partners: University of Kentucky, Kentucky State University, Organic Association of Kentucky, Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Organic Integrity Cooperative Guild, Elmwood Stock Farm and the Green Door Workshop.
  • Improving Professional Outcomes for Organic Inspectors through Training in Organic Agronomy. Project leads: Organic Agronomy Training Service and the Organic Trade Association.
  • Verifying the Promise of Certified Organic in the Northeast: Expanding Collaboration, Cooperation and Capacity-Building in the Northeast to Train, Inspect and Certify to the NOP. Project lead: Northeast Organic Farming Association with partners: Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; Delaware Valley University; Alfred State College; Rutgers University; Vermont Technical College; University of Connecticut; University of Maine; University of Massachusetts; University of New Hampshire; and Organic Independents.

The National Organic Program is a program of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). More information on organic certification and free training for professionals engaged in organic oversight is available on the AMS website.

This article is courtesy of the USDA AMS.

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