The USDA’s Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP) recently marked its first anniversary. It’s an investment of up to $100 million over five years in cooperative agreements with non-profit organizations that are partnering with others to provide technical assistance and support for transitioning and existing organic farmers.

USDA Undersecretary Jenny Lester Moffitt says the program offers several benefits for growers.

“So, that can be anything, [such as] technical assistance field assistance to do that to transition different practices to organic practices. They can do mentorship,” she said.

She says the mentorship aspect is a vital part of the program because it gives growers the opportunity to have someone on their team who has already gone through the steps of going organic.

“That could be the difference between someone who gives up in frustration, or someone who learns how to do it and then has access to new markets,” she said.

She also says that those steps can be lengthy, and that’s why the program is the length it is.

“If the land is currently farmed in conventional practices, that land needs three years to transition to organic production,” she said. “That’s why it’s really important as we set out and launch the Transition to Organic Partnership Program that the program is a five-year program. Transitioning farmers have the three-year support During the transition period but then they’re not left all on their own after they’ve become certified organic. There’s an additional year or two that they get additional support through this program as well.”

The TOPP Program has set up partnerships in all 50 states and has reached more than 11,000 people.

You can learn more about the program on the USDA website.