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.
OTA’s Executive Director/CEO Laura Batcha told attendees that state agriculture directors are critical in the creation of much-needed policies that provide more choice and opportunity—including the organic option—in today’s U.S. agricultural system. During a lunchtime address, she told state Secretaries and Commissioners of Agriculture that they play a key role in developing and delivering sound public policy that supports diversity in agriculture, including the organic choice for farmers and ranchers of all sizes and backgrounds.
OTA hosted an all-organic lunch for the officials. The lunch, donated by OTA members, featured organic spinach and arugula from Earthbound Farm, organic rice from TruRoots/Smuckers, organic chicken and apple sausage from Applegate, fresh organic berries from Driscoll’s, and chocolate-crusted coconut cheesecake made with organic granola from Nature’s Path and organic eggs from Hidden Villa.
OTA also participated in the Sponsors’ Roundtable, during which Batcha shared in an open dialog with top state agriculture officials on the path forward for American agriculture, and the importance of respectful dialog and willingness to engage with all facets of agriculture. She outlined key issues and opportunities for OTA and the organic industry to collaborate with NASDA:
- Implementing new rules of the Food Safety Modernization Act
- Improving and maintaining pollinator health
- Implementing the EPA’s Clean Water Act
- Increasing the number of organic farmers in the United States, and increasing organic supply
- Improving and making more accessible organic research for farmers and ranchers, and
- Developing organic-compliant tools for devastating diseases and invasive species.
NASDA’s President Scott Enright noted that organic agriculture is thriving in the ever-changing world of agriculture, with organic farmers and ranchers a critical component to the story of agriculture and feeding our growing population.
OTA also enjoyed sitting down in one-on-one meetings with the Secretaries or Commissioners of Agriculture to discuss organic in their states. I was able to meet with the top agriculture officials from the states with the ten largest organic footprints, as well as those from states with state-run certification bodies.
OTA’s policy objectives in those meetings included educating officials about the organic sector across the country and in specific states, identifying areas in which to work together on improving pollinator habitats, explaining details about the proposal for an organic research and promotion order, and identifying common interests in the clarity of the USDA Organic seal. These meetings continued a dialog on how to improve communication through the state Departments of Agriculture with organic farmers.//