The voice of producers just got amped up by over a thousand notches at the Organic Trade Association with the recent new memberships of Pennsylvania Certified Organic and Georgia Organics into the association’s Farmers Advisory Council.
The two membership-based non-profit organic organizations represent almost 1,200 certified organic producers in 15 states stretching from the Mid-Atlantic and Southern U.S. to the Midwest. The new strategic alliances with the Farmers Advisory Council will significantly expand cooperation among organic farmers and stakeholders, and strengthen the engagement and input of organic producers in helping the Organic Trade Association advance its policy priorities.
Pennsylvania Certified Organic is a U.S. Department of Agriculture-accredited organic certifying agency that educates and certifies growers, processors and handlers of organic crops, wild crops, livestock and livestock products in Pennsylvania and 13 other states throughout the nation. Since its beginnings in 1985 with 27 members, the organization has now represents over 1,000 organic farmers.
Georgia Organics, established in 1997, is a non-profit organization with its mission to champion organic agriculture and healthy families “by empowering farmers to thrive … and making organic and local food accessible to all Georgians.” It now represents 121 certified organic producers in Georgia, with the goal to grow that number to 200 by 2020 (see Feature, Page 33).
Both have farmer-controlled governance boards—a requirement for membership to the Farmers Advisory Council. Council member organizations independently select their representation on the council.
The new alliance opens the opportunity of Pennsylvania Certified Organic and Georgia Organics members to join the association under its Farmstead Membership category. This membership category makes association membership available for just $50 per year to organic farmers whose annual income from organic sales is less than $250,000 and who have current membership in one of the organizations with which the Farmers Advisory Council has formed a strategic alliance. Farmstead membership farmers get the full benefits of a membership to the trade group, including the right to vote in its annual Board of Directors election.
Pennsylvania Certified Organic joined the Farmers Advisory Council in March, and almost immediately became actively engaged. Its farmer members participated in Organic week in D.C. in May and engaged in Capitol Hill visits with lawmakers. The organization quickly signed up to be a member of the trade association’s recently formed Global Organic Supply Chain Integrity Task Force, selecting its Certification Director Kyla Smith to be its representative on the task force.
Georgia Organics became a Farmers Advisory Council member in May. Since its beginning, it has shared the common goal with the Organic Trade Association to increase organic production and organic farmers. Both Pennsylvania Certified Organic and Georgia Organics helped to get the word out to their members on the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices regulation, and both are active in assisting farmers to transition into organic agriculture through mentoring and other educational programs.
Other participating organizations include CCOF Inc., Organic Egg Farmers of America, Oregon Tilth Certified Organic, Western Organic Dairy Producers Association, CROPP Cooperative, Montana Organic Association, and Washington State’s Tilth Alliance. Any organic farmer-governed is welcome to join the Farmers Advisory Council to elevate the voice of their producer membership. Contact the Organic Trade Association’s Farm Policy Director Nate Lewis for more information (firstname.lastname@example.org). //