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Regenerative Organic Certification: The “Going Beyond Organic” Label Gains Traction

There’s a buzz around regenerative organic agriculture, says Elizabeth Whitlow, executive director of the Regenerative Organic Alliance (ROA). Farmers, scientists, big food companies, and even the U.S. government are paying keen attention to soil—its health, its availability, and its huge potential to repair a “broken” agricultural system and help alleviate the dire impacts of global warming.

The ROA launched Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC) to build on existing organic rules and set a “high bar” standard for agricultural practices. The label has three pillars: soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness. With food experts worried about a weakening of the organic standard the regenerative organic standard solidifies organic while going further—to lessen greenhouse gas emissions, regenerate soil, halt animal abuse, and empower farmers with stable living wages and fair policies. Industrial agriculture and factory farming are top contributors to climate change and environmental degradation, Whitlow says. In turn, climate change is making it harder to farm.

“We established Regenerative Organic Certified® to help keep the organic program strong,” Whitlow said. “None of these new REGEN certifications require organic, and we wanted a label with integrity that couldn’t be watered down. We (wanted) to protect the term ‘regenerative,’ from being greenwashed by corporate interests. We believe ‘regenerative’ and ‘organic’ should always go together, so we created ROC to make sure they would always be linked.”

To date, 91 farms, 33,151 smallholder farmers, and 237,404 acres have received ROC certification—representing 151 crop types across four continents. Forty-three food brands have been licensed to make ROC product claims. ROC now has 12 approved certifying bodies and 85 auditors—poised to triple its on-the-ground capacity next year.