MOFGA and MOFGA Certification Services (MCS) are pleased to announce that we have been chosen as a core partner and the state lead for Maine through USDA’s Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP).
TOPP is one of three focus areas by USDA to transition more agriculture to organic (generally known as the Organic Transition Initiative), as part of their larger climate-smart goals and transitioning more production to certified organic. The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) received $100 million dollars to administer TOPP, and chose six regional leads throughout the country to facilitate cooperative agreements and organize strategies. MOFGA and MCS are part of the Northeast region, which includes 13 states and the District of Columbia, and is led by Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO). The states are Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. Please click here for more information about TOPP and organic transition.
What are the benefits?
USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) describes the goals of TOPP to include “investing up to $100 million over five years in cooperative agreements with non-profit organizations who will partner with others to provide technical assistance and wrap-around support for transitioning and existing organic farmers.” According to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) website, partner organizations will:
- Connect farmers transitioning to organic with mentors for at least one year after certification.
- Build paid mentoring networks to share practical insights and advice.
- Provide community-building opportunities including train-the-mentor support, technical assistance, and workshops and field days covering such topics as organic production practices, certification, conservation planning, and business development including navigating the supply chain, regulations and marketing.
- Help transitioning producers overcome technical, cultural and financial shifts during and following organic certification.
- Engage educational and training institutions (including crop advisors and extension agents) on workforce training and education related to organic.
Maine TOPP Partnerships
TOPP mentors require certain criteria to participate in the program. Mentor criteria includes having at least three years of organic production experience; being a certified organic producer in good standing (or three years of experience with organic certification); and being able to commit to 45 hours per year working with a mentee farmer (this includes onboarding, training, and direct engagement with the transitioning producer). Compensation for mentors is $3,000 per year per mentee, which includes travel and incidental expenses. We encourage anyone interested to contact us if you have any questions.
TOPP Transitioning Producers / Mentees wishing to participate in the program must also abide by certain requirements and expectations. Transitioning producers do not pay at all and will be well supported throughout the transition period.
TOPP Project Partners and Technical Assistance opportunities exist within TOPP; MOFGA and MCS encourage organizations and individuals to consider submitting a Request for Proposal to engage in this project. Project proposals have a wide range of flexibility (i.e., a proposal to cover a singular event like a field day within the Community Building area, or a proposal to cover activity over the full 5 years of the project), and are capped at $100,000 per year of funding. Technical Assistance is an important part of TOPP and we encourage organizations and individuals to consider engaging. Please contact us for more details, or submit your interest through this form.
Contact MCS at 207-568-6030 or email@example.com with any questions, and we will direct you accordingly.