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Patagonia Helps Spearhead New Comprehensive Organic Certification Program

There’s a new certification program on the market and it’s aimed at improving fairness for farmers and workers, soil health, ecological land management, and pasture-based animal welfare, with Patagonia a driving force behind initiative.

The Regenerative Organic Alliance, a diverse coalition of organizations and businesses led by Rodale Institute as board chair and spearheaded by soapmaker Dr. Bronner’s along with Patagonia, has introduced the Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC).

The groups describe the ROC as a “holistic agriculture certification” designed to addresses problems of factory farming, climate change and economic injustice.

Specifically, its objectives are to increase soil organic matter and absorb atmospheric carbon in soil to help minimize the effects of climate change, create a new standard for pasture-based animal welfare, provide economic stability and fairness for farmers, ranchers and workers, and to create resilient regional ecosystems and communities.

“Patagonia’s interest and participation in the alliance is related to the company’s belief that industrial agriculture and the factory farming of animals are top contributors to climate change, and that we need to shift our focus to clear, calculated changes to our food and agricultural production system to make regenerative organic agriculture the new model, both locally and globally,” Phil Graves, director of corporate development at Patagonia, told Sourcing Journal. “Patagonia believes that specific ecological and ethical approaches to farming can produce immediate improvements to soil health, the well-being of animals, farmers, workers and the climate itself.”

Graves said the ROC builds off of several farm-level responsibility programs Patagonia currently has running in its supply chain, including and long-term commitment to converting all of its cotton to organic, land management to restore grasslands for wool fiber, creation of a Traceable Down Standard for animal welfare, adoption of a Patagonia Wool Standard and the industry Responsible Wool Standard, and adherence to Fair Trade standards in its supply chain, as well as involvement in non-GMO Organic Certified Food programs.

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Patagonia has been monitoring its cut-and-sew factories since 1995 and textiles mills for social and environmental responsibility since 2011, he said, “so it makes sense to move to the farm level–the beginning of the supply chain–where the fibers originate.”

“Patagonia is starting the ROC pilot process with its supply chain partners around organic cotton and Patagonia Provisions (its food division) and is currently working on an estimated timeline when we’ll see ROC certified products hit the shelves,” Graves said.

The coalition said the U.S. Department of Agriculure’s organic standard “is the bedrock of the ROC,” and that only products certified under the USDA organic program are eligible to meet the ROC criteria. The requirement is that farms must achieve organic certification as a baseline to qualify.

When implemented, the ROC standards related to farming and the growing of cotton and other potential natural fiber raw materials will ensure the use of practices such as conservation tillage for minimal soil erosion and water savings, and the rejection of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to spare the land from toxic chemicals and sustain soil ecology, Graves noted.

Once a farm or producer meets the standards, an actual certification will be issued, he added.

Other founding members of certification include: Compassion in World Farming, Demeter, Fair World Project, Grain Place Foods, Maple Hill Creamery and White Oak Pastures. The coalition said the ROC was created with the intention that it will be adopted by companies and producers on a broad scale and that there is “enthusiastic interest from other brands in the food, fiber and natural products Industry to join this effort.”

The goal is to have ROC products appearing on shelves within the next two years.