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.
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.
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.
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.
As its name implies, OTA member Esperanza Threads brings hope through the gift of sewing. In 2000, returning to Cleveland, Ohio, after working in Native American missions in Montana, Sister Mary Eileen Boyle contemplated what she would choose for the next step in her life’s calling. An Ursuline Sister of Cleveland—an order whose mission is to transform lives through contemplation, justice, and compassion, she wanted to start something that would transform lives while respecting the earth and follow a holistic philosophy.
“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.
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.
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.
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.