The USDA Organic Literacy Initiative: Streamlining Access and Promoting Understanding

eOrganic author:

Betsy Rakola, USDA National Organic Program

On September 4, 2012, the USDA launched its first Organic Literacy Initiative. This package of training and outreach materials highlights the range of USDA programs and services for organic farmers, ranchers, and processors. The initiative explains what organic means, how certification works, and how to connect current and prospective organic operations with helpful resources. The online training modules and accompanying handouts provide a quick, easy overview of the USDA organic seal. In addition, the UDSA Organic Resource Guide details a multitude of programs and services available to organic or transitioning producers and handlers, including contact information and website references.

The brochure, poster, and resource guide are applicable to a broad audience, but they are particularly useful for field offices, extension agencies, and other on-the-ground services providers. The materials can serve as quick reference guides and handy outreach materials to give clients the information they need. The “Is Organic an Option for Me?” brochure answers many common questions for new and prospective organic farmers. You can explore the range of resources on your own, or you can view a recorded webinar that explains the different tools and shows you how you can adapt them to your needs.

The Organic 101 and 201 training modules, key to the initiative, provide learners with the building blocks to understand how the organic regulations work in practice. The modules are available publicly, as well as through the USDA’s AgLearn internal training portal for employees. In October and November, 2012, over 1,200 USDA employees completed the AgLearn training, and thousands of visitors to the USDA National Organic Program’s (NOP) website viewed the modules as well. Field office agencies have placed a strong emphasis on the training program.

In December 2012, the NOP added four publications to the Organic Literacy Initiative. Developed through cooperation with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), these publications provide detailed, point-by-point information on organic certification, crop production, livestock, and food processing. Two of the publications, the Guide for Organic Crop Producers and Guide for Organic Livestock Producers, update the NCAT’s 2003 Organic Crops Workbook and its 2004 Organic Livestock Workbook. The other two publications, Organic Certification and the Guide for Organic Processors, are new in 2012. These in-depth overviews of the organic regulations are targeted to new and existing organic operators who want to improve their understanding of or compliance with the USDA organic regulations.

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Published December 12, 2012

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.