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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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
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.