Welcome new OTA members!

The single most effective way you can address the range of critical issues facing your organic business is by joining the Organic Trade Association. OTA has promoted and protected the organic business community for thirty years. We have the strategic know-how to effectively address issues, both large and small, that impact your bottom line. Welcome to the new OTA members who have joined us in 2016.

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Organic News and Trends

The booming U.S. organic industry posted new records in 2015, with total organic product sales hitting $43.3 billion, up a robust 11 percent from the previous year’s record level and far outstripping the overall food market’s growth rate of 3 percent, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2016 Organic Industry Survey.

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Showcasing U.S. organic at this year’s World’s fair

OTA was proud to take part in the World’s Fair in Milan, Italy, during October. The theme of this year’s international exposition was “Feeding the Planet. Energy for Life,” exploring the huge task of finding a balance between meeting the nutritional needs of the global population and respecting the planet.

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OTA develops strong network in Japan

OTA co-hosted an all organic BBQ at the U.S. Consular General Allen Greenberg’s residence in Kobe, Japan. A first of its kind, the luncheon brought together key industry players and thought leaders from Japan’s growing organic industry. Monique Marez, OTA’s Associate Director for International Trade, and Melody Meyer, a member of OTA Board of Directors, led an information session and discussion on U.S. trends, and ways to import more USDA certified products.

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United States and Switzerland sign equivalency arrangement

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.

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“Myth-Busting Month”campaign reaches 15 million consumers

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.

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Organic award winners: Inspired and inspiring

Organic Farmer of the Year Benny McLean of Uncle Matt’s Organic says it makes him feel good to see his 12 grandkids work in the soil and learn how healthy food is grown. Growing the Organic Industry recipient Tom Harding of Lehigh Valley Organic Growers says after 30 years advocating for organic, he still feels like he’s just beginning the trek for organic. And Rising Star winner Michael Berger of Elevation Burger says his commitment to advancing organic and selling healthy fast food to American consumers has never been stronger.

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Organic Roots are spreading in Washington

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.

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Report outlines economic barriers to transitioning to organic

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.

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Member of the Year

Jeff Rakity of Natural Flavors/Elan received OTA’s 2015 Member of the Year Award at OTA’s Annual Meeting in September. This special recognition, driven by OTA staff and endorsed by OTA’s Board, was created to honor a truly engaged member—a dedicated volunteer, fearless leader and apt cheerleader for OTA while serving overall as an ambassador for OTA and the industry.

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OTA continues to work to strengthen livestock requirements

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.

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Organic agriculture keeps farmworkers & their families safe

One of the most important ways that we can protect our farmworkers is by supporting organic agriculture. Because organic certified farming operations are prohibited from using most synthetic pesticides, organic farms ensure that farm workers, their families, and their communities are safe from the negative effects of toxic pesticide exposure.

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An organic researcher perspective on organic check-off funds

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.

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Research successes in organic plant breeding

Over the past half century, most plant breeding programs, both public and private, have been developed in response to the needs of large-scale industrial agriculture with a focus on yield improvement, the ability to stand up to storage and transport, and appearance. However, not only do breeding programs for conventional crops often use techniques banned under organic standards, they also can result in the loss of traits critical for the success of crops managed without the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.

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Conferences focus on organic research

In February, the Organic Seed Alliance will hold the 8th Organic Seed Growers Conference for two days of presentations and networking focused on organic seed. Conference attendees receive hands-on instruction, results from cutting-edge research, updates on seed policy and advocacy efforts, and inspiring stories from the field. The theme will be “Cultivating Resilience,” a current assessment and road-map for building organic seed systems that are ecologically, socially, and economically resilient. The conference Feb. 4–6, 2016, will take place at Oregon State University, which will co-host with Washington State University and eOrganic.

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Investing in the next generation

Visionaries in the organic sector are investing in efforts to groom the next generation of organic researchers. Clif Bar Family Foundation’s Seed Matters™ initiative to fund four fellowships totaling $500,000 for four Ph.D. students studying plant breeding in North Carolina, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin is designed not only to improve seed for today’s organic farmers, but is seen as investing in leaders for the future.

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Organic Research: Innovations and investments key to sector’s bright outlook

Organic lettuce that can fight mildew and aphids, organic strawberry nursery stock with the potential to transform the organic berry sector, new varieties of organic food-grade barley able to be grown in the Pacific Northwest, an organic open-pollinated sweet corn whose seed can be saved for the following year, and educational grants and endowments to invest in organic’s future. These are just a few examples of organic research innovations that are shaping today’s organic industry and ensuring a solid and healthy future for tomorrow.

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MetaWear launches first U.S. GOTS factory of its kind

Located in a refurbished Verizon facility in Fairfax, VA, close to our country’s capital, OTA member company MetaWear has launched the first GOTS-certified ethical manufacturing and dye factory in the United States. This cutting-edge solar- and geothermal-powered manufacturing facility provides cutting, sewing, dyeing and screen-printing to produce certified organic cotton T-shirts.

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Sales of U.S. organic products reach record $39.1 billion

Sales of organic food and non-food products in the United States set another record in 2014, reaching $39.1 billion, up 11.3 percent from 2013, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2015 Organic Industry Survey. Despite tight supplies of organic ingredients, organic food sales posted an 11 percent increase to reach $35.9 billion, while organic non-food sales, at $3.2 billion, jumped almost 14 percent for the biggest annual increase in six years.

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Perspectives on an Organic Check-Off

“I understood that the proposed check-off was controversial and decided to investigate. Largely I found that concerns stem from bad experiences with other agricultural commodity programs like beef, pork and eggs, that benefited large agribusiness and processors while American farmers were screwed over. But I found that the proposed organic check-off program has been designed with a lot of feedback from organic farmers in a sensible and fair fashion.”—David Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner’s

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Quantifying the international organic marketplace

Exports of U.S. organic foods as well as imports of organic products into the United States have risen significantly in the past few years. But, by how much? And, for which products? OTA’s international department sought to answer those questions with a landmark study on the trade flow of organic food products across the borders of the United States. This watershed report compiles, for the first time ever, a comprehensive picture of the officially tracked organic food products sold by U.S. exporters and bought by U.S. importers. The work reveals that a robust global appetite for organic food has created new lucrative markets from Mexico City all the way to Hong Kong for U.S. organic producers—but also provides strong evidence that American farmers are losing out on some valuable opportunities by not growing more organic.

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Organic in 2030

In January, the Organic Trade Association’s Board of Directors adopted a long-term vision for the trade association to lead the organic sector into the year 2030. OTA’s 15-Year Vision Task Force was co-chaired by Melissa Hughes and Laura Batcha, with participants Melody Meyer, Perry Clutts, Leslie Zuck, and Marci Zaroff. OTA’s 15-Year vision adopted by the Board is bold, ambitious and far-reaching. It is a reflection of the dedication, integrity and creativity of the sector that OTA serves, and of OTA’s unwavering commitment to lead the organic sector to new unprecedented levels of achievement.

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When #Organic Goes Social

What does ‘organic’ really mean? Can I trust it? Why is it so expensive?” The conversation is happening on social media, whether you’re a part of it or not. Throughout the world, millions of consumers, businesses, influencers and policymakers are engaged across a variety of social networks—and all signs point to continued growth across channels in the coming years.

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An Organic Check-Off: It sounds good but what about...?

An organic check-off would be unlike any other check-off program in American agriculture. Nothing like it has ever been tried, so the idea has understandably raised some questions. OTA has talked to lots of organic stakeholders over the past three years, and has found there’s a core group of concerns that keep coming up. We’ve also found that most of these concerns are based on perceptions of older check-offs, and we’ve addressed these issues.

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Celebrate the International Year of Soils

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations Council has declared 2015 as the International Year of Soils. Soils have been receiving a lot of attention lately, because they are the basis for our food systems, fuel and fiber production, many essential environmental functions, and climate change mitigation. Unfortunately, soil health is under threat: the large-scale use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in conventional farming has been damaging soils and decreasing their natural ability to provide ecosystem services.

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Farmland LP creatively strategizes to meet organic demand

The challenge is clear and only intensifying with the rising demand for organic products: more organic farmers and more organic land are needed. At the same time, older farmers are selling farmland, fueling a farmland real estate market that continues to grow. For investors, this has averaged a return rate of 12 percent the last 20 years, according to the National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries.

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