Farm Advocacy Update

OTA’s Farmers Advisory Council

The Organic Trade Association’s 2016 Policy Conference hosted another Farmers Advisory Council (FAC) summit, where FAC members met to discuss and reflect on FAC’s successes over the past three years, and contemplated how to increase participation and imagine where FAC will head in the next three years.

Overall, FAC member organizations have found participation extremely helpful in elevating the voices of their membership and individual farmers across the United States. From specific issues relating to marketing challenges to policy recommendations that improve crop insurance to considering how FAC can participate in global conversations around mitigating climate change, the council has provided a forum for members to voice their perspectives.’

Listening to recommendations from FAC members at this strategic planning meeting, OTA staff will proceed over the next six months in establishing a road map for expanding FAC membership reach, increasing participation, and establishing FAC as a relevant organic farmer group on a global level.

FAC is also gearing up for tackling the challenging landscape of advising OTA on 2018 Farm Bill priorities. As part of this work, FAC is considering a farmer fly-in to Washington, D.C., in early 2017 to share organic farmers’ perspectives on Farm Bill-related issues to lawmakers.

We will keep OTA membership apprised of opportunities to participate in this process as it unfolds. If you have any questions or thoughts about FAC, please reach out to OTA’s Farm Policy Director Nate Lewis, or FAC Co-chair and OTA Board member Perry Clutts.

OTA comments on animal welfare

To provide substantive comments to USDA on the animal welfare proposed rule, OTA formed a task force of members representing a diverse array of organic stakeholders in the organic livestock and poultry space. The task force encompassed perspectives from a broad spectrum of farmers, processors, certifiers, and consultants. The full comments are posted on OTA’s website under Animal Welfare,” but the following are highlights of our membership’s positions on the proposed rule as a whole:

  •  Some producers need more time to adjust their operations to the proposed regulations.  Pork and broiler producers, in particular, will need at least three years to modify their operations to comply with stricter stocking rates and outdoor access requirements.

  •  USDA must support implementation of the animal welfare regulation with clear and concise guidance around ensuring that outdoor access requirements for livestock and poultry compliment organic farming’s long-standing commitment to environmental health.

  •  The proposed regulations do not increase biosecurity risks for organic poultry. In fact, the added specificity that the animal welfare regulations would provide to the organic industry would allow producers more flexibility in protecting the health of their animals in the event of animal disease outbreaks.

Certified Transitional Program

After nearly a year of task force deliberations, standards writing, review, and further discussions, the Organic Trade Association has submitted a proposal to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to establish a certified transitional program for farms that are in transition to organic.

Previous editions of the Organic Report have explained specific details of the program, and OTA’s website includes additional information. OTA’s proposal was submitted in May, and we are still awaiting an official response from USDA to know how industry and government will partner to roll out the harmonized, nationwide transitional certification program.

To receive more specific information on the details of OTA’s proposal, please visit OTA’s website or contact OTA’s Farm Policy Director Nate Lewis.