The activity comes as consumer interest in organic food is growing, and as manufacturers ramp up efforts to meet demand. Currently only about 1% of of US farmland is organic, and farmers face challenges including a three-year transition period required to be eligible for USDA Organic certification.
Kashi – acquired by Kellogg in 2000 - is hoping to help increase organic acreage in the US after partnering with organic certifier Quality Assurance International (QAI) to develop a protocol that recognizes crops grown on farmland in the process of transitioning from conventional to organic practices.
QAI worked with grain company Hesco/Dakota Organic Products, agricultural suppliers, a global environmental NGO, organic experts, farmers, retailers, distributors and food brands to develop the Certified Transitional protocol that its says can be applied to any farmland growing any crop.
No financial benefit for three years
"Transitioning to organic isn't easy – farmers must invest in new infrastructure, create new business plans, and even obtain new crop insurance and financing,” said Hesco/Dakota Organic Products president Brad Hennrich. “That all starts day one when they begin converting to organic, but they don't see the financial benefit of organic prices for three years.”
"Certified Transitional provides a revenue opportunity and roadmap for farmers looking to transition that simply didn't exist before,” he added.
Kashi purchased the first-ever crop of Certified Transitional ingredients – hard red winter wheat – for use in new cereal Dark Cocoa Karma Shredded Wheat Biscuits, which was created to showcase transitional ingredients. The product rolls out to select grocers and natural food retailers nationwide early next month.
Recognizing farmers' investment
Kashi paid above the conventional market rate for the transitional wheat, which it said recognizes the investment farmers make while transitioning to organic.
Newton Russell, one of two farmers who piloted the Certified Transitional protocol and grew the wheat for the first batch of the cereal, said: "I transitioned some of my farmland to organic in the past and experienced the financial burden and uncertainty first-hand. Certified Transitional changes the equation and makes the decision to go organic easier.”
Kashi CEO David Denholm said he was excited about the potential for Certified Transitional to increase organic production in the US.
“One percent organic acreage is just not enough – and we want to promote solutions that benefit everyone working to move organic farming forward,” he added. “To really reach that potential, we need more farmers, processors, and brands to get on board. We encourage any brand that relies on agricultural ingredients to explore Certified Transitional sourcing."
General Mills boosting organic acreage
Other businesses ramping up organic sourcing activity have included General Mills, which in March this year announced it was accelerating efforts to double its organic acreage and source ingredients from 250,000 organic acres by 2019. At the Consumer Analysts Group of New York conference in February, the company said it expects to reach $1bn in net sales from natural and organic products by 2019, a year ahead of its previous target.
Last year, US flour milling and ingredients business Ardent Mills announced its Organic Initiative 2019, which it hopes will more than double the number of organic wheat acres in the country by 2019.