402.477.2323 info@ocia.org



What is the Plains Transition to Organic Partnership Program?

The Plains Transition to Organic Partnership Program (Plains TOPP) is a coalition of organizations providing technical assistance and wrap-around support for transitioning and existing organic farmers. 

Plains TOPP serves operators in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, and Oklahoma. 

How will Plains TOPP assist regional operators?

Working with regional partners, Plains TOPP will connect operators transitioning to organic with local, experienced organic operators who will serve as mentors. Additionally, Plains TOPP will:

    • Train and educate mentors to ensure successful partnership with transitioning operators
    • Provide technical assistance on agronomy, organic certification, extension, conservation planning, organic regulations, certification cost share programs, business development, and marketing
    • Develop and expand technical assistance and training programs
    • Support local workforce development
    • Organize community building and networking events to connect transitioning, newly certified, and experienced organic farmers.
Illustration of farmers


The goal of TOPP is to make the transition from conventional farming to organic farming easier and more accessible. To that end, a robust mentorship program has been developed. The mentorship program will:

      • Connect transitioning operators with an experienced organic operator who will provide guidance throughout the transition process.
      • Mentors will receive training, guidance, and support to ensure a successful relationship.
      • Transitioning operators will set goals with mentors, and mentors will actively assist transitioning operators in working toward their goals.

Apply for TOPP Mentorship today!

Are you a conventional producer transitioning your operation to organic? Apply now to be matched with a mentor who will help guide you through the transition and certification process.

Mentees will:

    • Partner with an experienced organic operator to navigate the transition and certification process
    • Get expert advice on best practices
    • Receive support in writing the organic system plan
    • Access additional learning opportunities such as field days, workshops, webinars, and conferences
TOPP Plains transitioning farmer
Plains TOPP mentors serve an important function.

Apply to be a TOPP Mentor today!

The Plains TOPP mentorship program is seeking experienced certified organic operators to serve as mentors to producers transitioning their operations to organic production.

Program Requirements:

    • Mentors must have at least 3 years experience with organic production and certification
    • Ability to connect with mentee 45 hours/year
    • Thorough understanding of organic rules and certification requirements
    • Understanding of challenges and benefits presented by organic certification

Mentors receive:

    • Training
    • $3,000 stipend for each mentorship year you participate (additional stipend for mentors with more than one mentee) 
    • Multi-lingual mentors may be eligible for additional compensation
    • Mentors with multiple mentees may be eligible for additional compensation

Are you interested in learning more about organic agriculture?

Transitioning your conventional operation to organic can be overwhelming, but we truly believe that that more you know the more successful your transition to organic will be. Below you will find resources that address questions transitioning operators frequently have.

The best part? Additional resources are added every other week, so feel free to check back regularly for more learning opportunities.

Challenges in the Organic Certification Process

Challenges in the Organic Certification Process

Transitioning a conventional operation to organic can at times feel like a daunting task filled with insurmountable obstacles. While it’s easy to become discouraged, many of the challenges associated with organic certification can be overcome with planning, ingenuity, and perseverance.

The Organic Certification Process

The Organic Certification Process

All operators seeking initial organic certification must complete a similar six step process regardless of which certification agency they partner with. This process ensures that organic operators remain in compliance with organic regulations and helps maintain the integrity of the organic supply chain.

Would you like more information about TOPP?


The Plains TOPP program is supported through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP). TOPP is a program of the USDA Organic Transition Initiative and is administered by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) National Organic Program (NOP).

Plains TOPP Partners

Who we work with:

Plains TOPP has a large network of collaborative partners continuously working to find ways to best support producers transitioning to organic, build community, and develop the organic workforce. Our partners represent state departments of agriculture, research universities, organic certifies and non-profit organizations throughout the Plains states.

Acres USA

Contact: Lydia Lazar
Email: llazar@acresusa.com

Center for Rural Affairs

Contact: Wyatt Fraas
Email: wyattf@cfra.org
Phone: 402-687-2100

Colorado Department of Agriculture

Contact: Callie Cooper
Email: callie.cooper@state.co.us
Phone: 303-869-9000


Contact: Stephanie Blumhagen
Phone: 701-877-1796
Email: sblumhagen@farrms.org

Grain Place Foundation

Contact: Jay Vetter
Email: jay@grainplacefoundation.org
Phone: 888-714-7246

Kansas Civic Network

Contact: Andres Mata
Email: andres.mata@kscivicnetwork.org

Kansas Farmers Union

Contact: Nick Levendofsky
Email: nick@kansasfarmersunion.com
Phone: 620-241-6630

Midwest Organic Producers

Contract: Demetria Hill
Email: deme.hill@outlook.com
Phone: 785-678-7006

Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society

Contact: Audrey Woita
Email: programcoordinator@sustainablenebraska.org
Phone: 402-235-6743

OCIA Nebraska

Contact: Rick Schuchardt
Phone: 703-474-9940
Email: rick.schuchardt@gmail.com

Organic Farmers Association

Contact: Kate Mendenhall
Email: kate@organicfarmersassociation.org
Phone: 202-643-5363

Rodale Institute

Contact: Lea Vereecke
Email: lea.vereecke@rodaleinstitute.org

Think Generation

Contact: Ryan Slabaugh
Email: ryan@think-regen.com
Phone: 970-389-5218

University of Nebraska – Lincoln

Email: kkoehlercole2@unl.edu
Phone: 402-504-1016

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service — NOP

Email: nop.guidance@usda.gov
Phone: 202-720-3252

OCIA International
(Regional Lead)

Email: topp@ocia.org
Phone: 402-477-2323


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Thank you for submitting your organic certification application! OCIA looks forward to working with you.

For applicants who are new or currently under suspension, please see the end of the page for some important notes.

An estimate for your 2023 certification and inspection fees was sent with the login information. Please promptly send payment to the address on the invoice. If you are a new applicant, OCIA will not review your file until payment is received.

If you are submitting hardcopies of any supporting documents, please mail them to the address on the invoice. Failure to submit required supporting documents may lead to delays in the review.

Once a complete file is received, OCIA will complete a pre-inspection review. During this process, OCIA will contact you if additional information is needed. Please respond to any communication from OCIA in a timely manner.

Please contact OCIA International if you have any questions.

New applicants: Please be reminded that as a new applicant, your operation currently cannot label or sell product as organic. If organic certification is granted, an organic certificate will be issued and product can then be sold as organic.

For farm operations, the inspector must see your crop in the field, so check-strips must be left in all fields requested for certification if any harvest occurs prior to inspection. For hay fields, any hay harvested prior to inspection cannot be certified as organic.

For suspended operations: Please be aware that no product can be sold as “organic” while suspended and previous product is no longer “organic.” For farm operations, any crops currently in storage are no longer organic and must be sold conventionally. Only crops harvested after reinstatement, if it is granted, may be sold as “organic.” Any crops harvested from fields prior to reinstatement must be sold conventionally.

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¡Gracias por enviar su solicitud de certificación orgánica! OCIA espera trabajar con usted. Para los solicitantes que son nuevos o están actualmente suspendidos, consulte el final de la página para conocer información importante.

Se le envió un estimado de los honorarios de certificación e inspección 2023 con la información de inicio de sesión. Envíe puntualmente el pago a la dirección que figura en la factura. Si usted es un nuevo solicitante, OCIA no revisará su expediente hasta que se reciba el pago.

Si envía copias impresas de cualquier documento de respaldo, envíelas por correo a la dirección que figura en la factura. Se podrá producir demoras en la revisión si no se envían los documentos de respaldo necesarios,.

Una vez que se recibe un expediente completo, OCIA llevará a cabo una revisión de preinspección. Durante este proceso, OCIA se comunicará con usted si necesita información adicional. Responda a cualquier comunicación de OCIA de manera oportuna.

Póngase en contacto con OCIA International si tiene alguna pregunta.

Para los solicitantes nuevos: recuerde que, como solicitante nuevo, su operación actualmente no puede etiquetar o vender productos como orgánicos. Si se otorga la certificación orgánica, se emitirá un certificado orgánico y el producto se podrá vender como orgánico.

Para las operaciones agrícolas, el inspector debe ver su cultivo en el campo, por lo que si se produce alguna cosecha antes de la inspección, se deben dejar franjas o surcos de verificación en todos los campos solicitados para la certificación. Para los campos de heno, cualquier heno cosechado antes de la inspección no puede certificarse como orgánico.

Para operaciones suspendidas: tenga en cuenta que ningún producto puede venderse como "orgánico" mientras está suspendido y que el producto anterior ya no es "orgánico". Para las operaciones agrícolas, cualquier cultivo actualmente almacenado ya no es orgánico y debe venderse de manera convencional. Solo los cultivos cosechados después del restablecimiento, si se otorga, pueden venderse como "orgánicos". Cualquier cultivo cosechado de los campos antes de la reinstalación debe venderse de manera convencional ".

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Thank you for submitting your organic certification application! OCIA looks forward to working with you.

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¡Gracias por enviar su solicitud de certificación orgánica! OCIA espera trabajar con usted.

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