Research—on–farm and at land-grant universities—could help solve some of the most pressing production-related issues that keep existing organic farmers from expanding and optimizing production, and pose a barrier for conventional farmers looking to convert their acreage to organic production. For this, the GRO Organic check-off proposal now before USDA could play a key role in funding research vital to addressing those issues.
A significant limit to the continued growth and sustainability of the U.S. organic industry is a gap in domestic supply of organic ingredients and raw products. The growth of organic acreage in the U.S. has never kept pace with demand for organic products and increasing amounts of imports continue to fill the gap.
Designed to convene organic farmers from across the nation and across sectors, OTA’s Farmers Advisory Council (FAC) provides a forum for elevating the issues facing the farmers who create the foundation of the entire organic industry. This is no easy task, as the organic farming industry encompasses widely different geographic regions, crops, and political districts. However, when farmers come together, share their ideas, and advise OTA on its policy agenda, the results at a national level can be swift and profound, as illustrated by recently announced significant policy reforms in Risk Management Agency’s (RMA) crop insurance available to organic farmers.
Swiss consumers purchase more organic products per capita than any other consumer population in the world. They are the fourth largest market for organic products in the world after the United States, Canada, and the European Union and responsible for 3 percent of global purchases of organic in 2014. Now, U.S. organic farmers have streamlined access to this active market through an organic equivalency arrangement.
Fact: You can eat organic on a budget. Fact: Organic agriculture can help feed the planet. Fact: There are proven health benefits of organic. These are three of the more than 30 research-backed facts that OTA and partners digitally disseminated each day in September as part of its highly successful “Myth-Busting Month” social media festival.
From the East Wing of the White House to the Halls of Congress, organic is spreading its roots in the nation’s capital. Today’s crop of organic influencers is making a difference in agricultural policy, federal legislation, international affairs, food and health guidelines, public research approaches, and environmental issues. The number of organic advocates in Washington has probably never been greater, including individuals with genuine down-to-earth roots in certified organic agriculture. In this edition, we are profiling a handful of these folks who are making their voices heard. These hard-working and committed individuals show how organic truly is seeding changes—in the food we eat, the way we think, and the future of our world.
CCOF recently released a report on economic barriers to organic transition that synthesizes discussions from two focus groups in June 2015. CCOF hosted the focus groups under a contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through its Sound and Sensible Initiative, an effort to make organic certification accessible, attainable, and affordable.
For the second year running, OTA was a sponsor at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) annual meeting, which focused on states and their key role in creating diversity and organic options in agriculture.
Developing any federal regulation takes a considerable amount of time and energy. The organic sector has an additional layer to this process, as most new organic regulations originate as recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and undergo an arduous journey of public scrutiny and rulemaking. The long-awaited ‘Origin of Livestock’ proposed rule released this summer illustrates the deliberate and transparent steps that must occur for an organic production concept to become codified in the federal regulations.
As organic researchers, we are very excited about the prospect of organic check-off funds going towards supporting research to help us address U.S. organic farmers’ most pressing needs to increase production of organic food, feed and fiber. For years, we have fought the federal government and our state universities for every organic research dollar. Traditionally, organic research has been woefully underfunded.