The Regenerative Organic Alliance, led by the Rodale Institute, is launching a certification program focused on holistic agriculture that its sponsors say goes beyond simple sustainability.
The Regenerative Organic Certification will stand on the shoulders of the National Organic Program, and only products certified organic by USDA are eligible.
But ROC will raise those standards and fill in the gaps of that program that evolved by either design or default, said Jeff Moyer, executive director of the Rodale Institute.
ROC will address the standards consumers perceive to be part of NOP through its three pillars of soil health, animal welfare and social fairness, he said.
“It’s important to think about what it really means to be regenerative; it’s more than just a word,” he said.
Rodale’s work to support and strengthen organic standards has always been based on a standard of continuous improvement to resources. But that concept was given up in the National Organic Program, or NOP, which allows the use of chemicals, he said.
The ROC will address continuous improvement in soil health and also go further than NOP in addressing animal welfare. It will also include social fairness for producers and workers, which isn’t an aspect of the NOP conversation, he said.
Rodale’s founder, J.I. Rodale, was the first to link healthy soil to healthy food to healthy humans, he said.
“Too often we don’t pay attention to that,” he said.
Rodale’s son, Robert Rodale, later recognized that farming by organic principles could mitigate climate change, he said.
“Farming can either create some of the world’s greatest challenges or solve them. Regenerative organic agriculture is our opportunity to solve them,” he said.
Healthy soil, clean air and clean water are just as important as yield and profit, and people and communities matter, he said.
ROC will link together all the values that matter to consumers to improve the health of the planet and people around the world, he said.
Spearheading the effort along with Rodale are Dr. Bronner’s — a major brand of natural soap worldwide committed to social justice and environmental sustainability — and Patagonia, an outdoor company committed to environmental activism.
ROC was created with the intent for the standard to become adopted by companies and producers on a broad scale and has already gotten a lot of attention from other brands, Moyer said.
Some brands will use the ROC logo and label, and others will use it as an internal control that food, fiber and other products are produced in accordance with their values and the values of their customers, he said.
The alliance will be launching pilot audits, working with accredited certifiers and producers to understand how the standards can be implemented on farms and ranches.
“We built the boat and want to see if it will float,” he said.
Hopefully, certification will begin in early 2019, with the goal of having ROC products appearing on store shelves within the next two years, he said.