Experts from Kashi, Amy's Kitchen and the Organic Trade Association will shed light on the newest initiative in the organic food sector – the Certified Transitional label – at this year's Organic & Non-GMO Forum, November 14th-15th at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis.

Hundreds are expected to turn out for a panel session that will address Certified Transitional, a new third-party certification process that monitors and approves farms that are transitioning from conventional to organic. Panelists Anna Jesus (Amy's Kitchen Inc.), Tina Owens (Kashi) and Nate Lewis, (Organic Trade Association) will cover the various Certified Transitional initiatives currently affecting the marketplace as well as review the programs available to farmers and the impact on organic supply. They also will take a look at what's coming next.

"This session will address what these programs mean for the entire value chain (from producers to food companies) and the innovative ways CPG players are getting involved with Certified Transitional initiatives," said Sarah Day Levesque, event chair and senior director at HighQuest Group, the hosts of the Organic & Non-GMO Forum. "In particular, Certified Transitional means potentially more sourcing options for the estimated $39 billion market for organic foods that is now serviced only by the one percent of U.S. farms that are certified organic." Day Levesque explained that Certified Transitional reduces the barriers to converting to organic by allowing farmers to sell their products at a premium price – somewhere between conventional and organic pricing – during the three-year transition period.

Attendees to the second annual Organic & Non-GMO Forum will be privy to all the details surrounding this critical topic, and the opportunities it enables across the entire agricultural value chain. Profiles of the esteemed panel participants on Certified Transitional include:

Tina Owens, senior manager of sustainability at Kashi. Owens has worked for Kellogg's for 14 years and currently manages the Certified Transitional farmer program. She implemented the first round of non-GMO product verification work in 2011 and continued to support the Non-GMO Project Renovation work for the full Kashi portfolio. In addition, for the last six years, she has directly managed the supply chains for such brands as Bear Naked, Stretch Island Fruit Company and Pure Organics brands. She also is responsible for the sustainability strategy of these brands.

Nathaniel Lewis, senior crops and livestock specialist for the Organic Trade Association (OTA). Lewis provides staff support to OTA's Farmer Advisory Council, on-the-ground outreach to OTA's organic farmer membership community, and analysis of policy issues that affect organic crop and livestock producers. He interacts directly with government officials and the organic supply chain on behalf of the grower segment of OTA's membership. Prior to his current position, Lewis served as certification coordinator for Washington State Dept. of Agriculture's organic certification program.

Anna Jesus, senior director of quality systems at Amy's Kitchen. Jesus has been working in various functions throughout the food industry for 20 years. Having worked in the conventional food world for much of her career, she has spent the last five years primarily in the organic/non-GMO side of the industry. During her time at Amy's Kitchen, she has worked with farmers to transition from conventional to organic crops, guided processors in obtaining organic certifications, and supported customers, both internal and external, in ensuring Amy's maintains the vision and charter of the founders.