CCOF Foundation Receives $2 Million Grant from CDFA for Organic Transition Pilot Program

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Funding To Expand CCOF Foundation’s Organic Transition Grants and Technical Assistance Offerings  

(December 17, 2023) Santa Cruz, CA – The CCOF Foundation has received a $2 million grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation (OEFI) as part of its Organic Transition Pilot Program (OTPP). CCOF has long been a leader in supporting farmers transitioning land to organic, and this grant funding will allow the CCOF Foundation to support 77 more farmers over three years through its holistic Organic Transition Program. 

The CCOF Foundation, a state and national leader in designing and implementing organic transition programs is poised to expand its current Organic Transition Program to provide wrap-around services and direct financial assistance to a total of 77 farmers over a period of four years, that are transitioning to organic agriculture.

“Farmers are ready to join in meeting the demand for more organic products, but transitioning to organic is a complex undertaking that can come with significant financial risk, particularly for limited resource and historically underserved producers. With CDFA’s OTPP grant, we can help reduce those risks by expanding our programs that provide multi-year financial and educational support to transitioning organic farmers,” explains CCOF Chief Programs Officer Jessica Beckett Parr. 

When farmers transition their land from conventional to organic, they wait three years before achieving certification and selling their products as organic. This three-year period is risky for farmers—they’re learning new farming techniques, creating new systems for their business, and cultivating a new market for their soon-to-be-organic products, all while growing food without earning the price premiums afforded to certified organic goods.

The CCOF Foundation’s organic transition grant programs have provided financial support for hundreds of farmers across the US. A cohort of transitioning farmers is selected to participate in the granting program each year. Each farmer receives three years of $10,000 grant funding, 1:1 technical advising on organic practices, business education, and peer-to-peer support. Additionally, CCOF is the West/Southwest regional lead for the new USDA Transition to Organic Partnership Program, organizing with over 150 organizations throughout the country to support mentorship, technical assistance, community building, and workforce development to support organic transition. 

CDFA’s OTPP initiative provides support to farmers and ranchers who are preparing land for organic certification. CDFA awarded $6.1 million in total to four organizations that demonstrate the expertise and collaboration needed to disburse financial and technical assistance and provide business planning to producers. The pilot program has a strong emphasis on equity. Awarded organizations will direct at least 50 percent of financial and technical assistance to underserved farmers and ranchers. Organic transition is difficult at any scale, and small-scale underserved farmers face a particularly steep uphill battle when going organic. 

“We are excited to provide these grants to organizations that are experts in this field and that can guide farmers and ranchers through the transition to organic production, which involves a learning curve,” said CDFA Deputy Secretary for Climate and Working Lands Virginia Jameson. “These grants will also help the state advance the goal set by the state’s 2022 Scoping Plan to increase organic agriculture to 20% of all cultivated acres by 2045.” The 2022 Scoping Plan is a statewide document that sets out California’s pathway to carbon neutrality, including substantial contributions from the agricultural sector.

“Transitioning more of California’s agricultural land to organic production also helps advance climate change mitigation goals, improves health and safety for rural citizens, and bolsters the state’s economy,” explains CCOF Chief Programs Officer Jessica Beckett Parr. “The science is very clear that organic agriculture has a ripple effect of benefits for both our planet and our communities.” 

CCOF also works to expand markets for organic products, which provides a robust marketplace for both new and seasoned organic businesses. Expanding the organic marketplace is a complex endeavor, so CCOF is involved with a variety of strategies to move the needle forward on increasing market-demand for organic. CDFA’s Farm to School program is one of these programs, where CCOF advocates for more school food to be sourced from organic farms. CDFA’s food hubs program aggregates fresh produce from small- and medium-sized growers in a central location, making it easier for retailers, restaurants, and institutions to get fresh food and creates new business outlets for farmers. CCOF is also supporting various efforts from the new USDA’s Organic Market Development Grants which funds infrastructure needs to support organic producers’ access to new and expanded markets for organic products. 

CCOF believes the organic market has room for players of all levels and will only grow in the future. 

To learn more about the CCOF Foundation’s support for organic transition, contact ccoffoundation@ccof.org

About CCOF

CCOF advances organic agriculture for a healthy world. We advocate on behalf of our members for organic policies, support the growth of organic through education and grants, and provide organic certification that is personal and accessible.

CCOF is a nonprofit organization governed by the people who grow and make our food. Founded in California more than 40 years ago, today our roots span the breadth of North America and our presence is internationally recognized. We are supported by an organic family of farmers, ranchers, processors, retailers, consumers, and policymakers. Together, we work to realize a future where organic is the norm.

The CCOF Foundation advances organic by supporting people and communities who care for the land by offering intentional education, financial support, and growth opportunities for organic professionals.
For more information about CCOF, visit www.ccof.org.

Author
Michael Recco
Author contact

CCOF Marketing Director
2155 Delaware Ave., Suite 150
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
mrecco@ccof.org