Spotlight on OTA's Farmers Advisory Council

OTA's Farmers Advisory Council (FAC) provides input from small- and medium-sized organic farmers, ranchers and growers to the Organic Trade Association on matters pertinent to the advancement of organic agriculture, with a specific focus on OTA’s policy agenda. Established in 2013, FAC is designed to formalize and improve communication between OTA and organic producers. It gives organic farmers a voice to directly influence OTA’s policy, and enables OTA to better represent the diversity of organic producers in its policy and advocacy.

The council is comprised of representatives of state and regional farming organizations representing organic that enter into an agreement with OTA for the mutual benefit of strengthening the organic industry’s national public policy influence. If your organization is interested in being represented through FAC, contact OTA’s Senior Crops & Livestock Specialist Nate Lewis.


FAC Partnering Organizations

CCOF INC.

CCOF advances organic agriculture for a healthy world. For more than 40 years, we have done this through organic certification, education, advocacy and promotion. From field to fork, we certify and represent organic growers, livestock producers, handlers, and retailers. Our certified members include more than 2,900 organic operations supplying 1,100 different organic crops, products, and services. CCOF is the only full-service organic certification agency whose members are represented by a strong trade association. CCOF is headquartered in Santa Cruz, California, and governed by a board of directors consisting of elected certified members.

"It’s important to include CCOF on the Farmers Advisory Council and California farmers to represent organic specialty crops. CCOF is proud to have a seat at the FAC table to advance organic agriculture."

—Phil LaRocca of LaRocca Vineyards in Forest Ranch, California, is Chair of the CCOF Inc. Board.

CROPP COOPERATIVE

Organic Valley is America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers and one of the nation’s leading organic brands. Organized in 1988, it represents approximately 1,800 farmers in 36 states. Focused on its founding mission of saving family farms through organic farming, Organic Valley produces a variety of organic foods, including organic milk, soy, cheese, butter, spreads, creams, eggs, and produce, which are sold in supermarkets, natural food stores and food cooperatives nationwide. With its regional model, milk is produced, bottled and distributed right in the region where it is farmed to ensure fewer miles from farm to table and to support our local economies.

"Organic farmers depend on aligning to help the public understand the value of their products, and the Farmers Advisory Council provides that opportunity. The broad range of farmers from across the industry and country share current concerns and issues, so it is a grassroots approach to supporting family farms—which is really the Organic Valley mission."

—Steve Pierson, a member of CROPP Cooperative since 2005, currently serves as Treasurer on its Board and has been a director since 2011. He and his wife Susan operate their organic family dairy farm in St. Paul, Oregon.

MONTANA ORGANIC ASSOCIATION

The 230-member farmer-governed Montana Organic Association (MOA) provides invaluable perspectives from organic growers in the important Northern Great Plains and the Mountain West regions. The Northern Great Plains is a significant provider of organic grains, with Montana ranking as the nation’s largest producer of organic wheat.

"Joining OTA’s Farmer Advisory Council will benefit our membership in giving them a larger influence on national organic policy issues, and gives FAC our perspective on issues facing Montana’s organic farmers and ranchers. With the demand for organic food so high, especially for grains, MOA thinks this partnership will help us to better serve our membership, cultivate new organic farmers and ranchers, and expand organic acreage in our region."

—Nate Brown, Chairman of the Board for MOA, is an organic dairy farmer in Montana.

OREGON TILTH CERTIFIED ORGANIC

Oregon Tilth is a leading certifier, educator and advocate for organic agriculture and products since 1974. Our mission to make our food system and agriculture biologically sound and socially equitable requires us to find practical ways to tackle big challenges. We advance this mission to balance the needs of people and planet through focus on core areas of certification, conservation, public health, policy and the marketplace. With headquarters in Corvallis, OR, Oregon Tilth’s scope of activities is global. We certify 1,511 operations located in 47 U.S. states as well as Mexico and Canada. We have 1,287 members, comprised of certified operations as well as non-certified individuals and organizations that support our mission.

"Oregon Tilth focuses on collaborative partnerships to increast access to resources and expertise. By participating on the FAC, we bring the organic farm community’s diverse perspectives to offer input on ensuring organic integrity, growing the organic sector and driving public investment in sustainable agriculture."

—Chris Schreiner, Executive Director

TILTH PRODUCERS OF WASHINGTON

Tilth Producers of Washington has been a leader in the organic agriculture movement since 1974, educating and advocating for farmers for decades, and committed to making organic agriculture a viable option for beginning and experienced growers alike. Based in Seattle, Tilth Producers is a 500-member organization representing farmers across Washington State.  Tilth Producers advocates for policies and regulations that support small-scale organic farming, both in Washington and nationally. 

"We look forward to having a representative on OTA’s Farmer Advisory Council and providing direct input on behalf of our small and medium-sized grower members."

—Michele Catalano, Executive Director 

 

ORGANIC EGG FARMERS OF AMERICA

The Organic Egg Farmers of America (OEFA) aims is to bring together various stakeholders dedicated to the production of eggs in compliance with the Organic Standards, and to create an environment of honesty and co-operation for the betterment of the industry as a whole. OEFA is a national organization made up of approximately 38 farmers, marketers, certifiers, and associated egg industry companies. A not-for-profit organization dedicated to sharing information, research and exploring common topics that affect egg producers, its primary event is an annual educational symposium. It welcomes new members.

"Being part of the Farmers Advisory Council gives us a voice at the table. We are able to share our views with the broader organic farmer community, and advocate together for things that matter to us all. Through FAC and OTA, we are part of the larger movement of organic farming and the difference organic is making in the food system and in rural America."

—Joseph Kropf of Fairfield Specialty Eggs Inc., of Deer Grove, Illinois, is OEFA’s representative on FAC

WESTERN ORGANIC DAIRY PRODUCERS ALLIANCE

The Mission for the Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (WODPA) is to preserve, protect and ensure the sustainability and integrity of organic dairy farming across the West. WODPA’s supporting membership is 18 percent of the organic dairy farms, which accounts for about 40 percent of the organic milk produced in the western half of the United States. WODPA’s vision is to advocate for and help protect organic dairy farmers in the West.

"It is important for WODPA to be a part of the OTA-FAC so that organic dairy farmers from the Western part of the U.S. can provide input into issues affecting our operations and have our collective voice be heard."

—Sean Mallett is from Harmony Organic Dairy, Twin Falls, Idaho

AT-LARGE FAC MEMBERS

Doug Crabtree: After a career in organic research, inspection and certification, Doug Crabtree returned to his calling to farm. In 2009, he and his wife Anna Jones-Crabtree founded Vilicus Farms, a dry land organic crop farm located in north-central Montana. The operation produces a diverse array of heirloom and specialty grains, oilseed and pulse crops, and practices "radical" land stewardship, minimizing fallow and strip cropping. It also devotes nearly 20 percent of the land to conservation, enhancing wildlife, pollinators and beneficial biology. Vilicus Farms also sponsors an apprentice program designed to "create and launch" new organic farmers. Doug and Anna strive to provide an example of organic farming practiced as an expression of a deep stewardship ethic as well as a legitimate profession. 

John Brunnquell is managing member of Egg Innovations LLC, which owns and operates organic pullet production, an organic feed mill and processing plant as well as chickens for egg production. He oversees the company’s day-to-day operations, sales and marketing, food safety and organic certification. John is active on several industry organic egg boards and committees including United Egg Producers’ Organic Egg Committee, Organic Egg Farmers of America Board of Directors, and the Methionine Task Force. He is both a strong advocate for family farms and for maintaining consumer trust in the organic products produced by the organic industry. Egg Innovations produces a wide variety of specialty eggs, and is committed to organic, animal welfare and maintaining family farms for future generations. 

Bob Quinn of Quinn Farm and Ranch owns and operates a fourth generation small grain certified organic dry land family farm of 4,000 acres near Big Sandy in North Central Montana. He earned a Ph.D. in plant biochemistry from the University of California at Davis. His whole farm—100% organic since 1989—is his laboratory as well as his garden. He experiments with organic cropping systems, dry land vegetables, a small orchard, and grows high oleic safflower which is crushed and used first for food by local restaurants and then for fuel to run his tractor. In 1986, Bob introduced Kamut brand Khorasan ancient wheat to the natural food market place.

Jimmy Wedel of Wedel Farm has been an organic producer for 23 years.  His 2,800-acre organic farming operation is located on the High Plains of Texas, where he grows organic yellow corn, blue corn, forage sorghum, soybeans, wheat and cotton. He is President of the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative and also serves on the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Organic Industry Advisory Committee, as well as the Texas Corn Producers Board and Capital Farm Credit.


Organizing across the country, across supply chains, and time zones, we have had challenges, but in keeping with OTA’s value that farmers are the foundation of the organic industry, it has been imperative and a priority for OTA to design a process to hear the voices of organic farmers. OTA’s Farmers Advisory Council does just that, and is doing that successfully. It has been gratifying to see it grow, including more and more farmers.

Perry Clutts of Pleasant View Farm in Ohio, who holds the farmer seat on OTA’s Board of Directors, is FAC Chair.

 

 

 

Samantha Cabaluna of Earthbound Farm, chair of OTA’s Community Relations Committee, is FAC Co-Chair. 

 

 

 

Nate Lewis, OTA’s Senior Crops and Livestock Specialist, is staff liaison.

 

 

 


FAC Field Notes: Farmers Advisory Council helps bring policy reforms for farmers

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