The Organic Trade Association unites and serves more than 8,500 organic farmers, handlers, ranchers, processors, distributors, and retailers across the organic supply chain. In fact, 2016 saw the biggest growth in OTA membership in over five years. If you’re one of the many members who already relies on OTA for its government relations, media outreach, and market insights work, thank you for your support. If not, take a look at a few of the many highlights of OTA’s work on behalf of the sector, and join us in our work to chart organic’s future.
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) has hired two experienced government affairs professionals to join its team.
Kelley Poole (above, left) is now OTA’s Vice President of Government Affairs. In addition, Megan DeBates (above, right) has been named Director of Legislative Affairs and Coalitions Both based at OTA’s Washington, D.C., office at the Hall of the States, they will help introduce organic food and farming to the new Administration and Congress.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in January published the final rule on animal welfare standards for organic livestock and poultry in the Federal Register. The Office of Management and Budget had been reviewing the rule since a public comment period ended in July.
Based on recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board, the final rule:
On January 11, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) announced a new partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help guide farmers transitioning into certified organic agricultural production.
Using standards developed by OTA, the National Certified Transitional Program will provide oversight to approved Accredited Organic Certifying Agents offering transitional certification to producers. This will help ease the transition process to organic, allow farmers to sell their products as certified transitional at a premium, and encourage more organic production.
The growth of the organic industry relies on continued consumer confidence that the organic label is backed up by an assurance of adherence to the organic production and handling standards. To ensure that organic farmers and handlers are meeting organic requirements, organic certifiers conduct annual inspections, unannounced inspections, residue testing, and market surveillance. In addition to these enforcement mechanisms, complaints from the general public serve an important role in identifying potential violations of the organic standards.
Bioponics and containerized production were a significant topic of discussion at the Fall 2016 NOSB meeting in St. Louis, MO. Hydroponics, aeroponics, aquaponics, bioponics, and containers are all buzzwords that are used to describe different production systems, but what do these various terms and definitions mean, and what do these systems look like?
Organic regulations require certified operations to demonstrate they are promoting ecological balance, conserving biodiversity, managing livestock to meet health and wellness requirements and using only approved farming and handling inputs. Organic agriculture is also governed by the basic rule that natural and organic inputs are allowed while synthetic inputs are prohibited. In some cases, however, synthetic or non-organic inputs are the only option available because of the absence of a natural or organic alternative.
This past September, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who serves on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, introduced a bill that would make urban farms of all types eligible for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and would set up an office of urban agriculture within the agency. The Urban Agriculture Act of 2016, as envisioned by Senator Stabenow, would help create new economic opportunities, giving urban families greater access to healthy food and creating a healthier environment in cities and towns across the country.
As the new Administration and Congress take on their responsibilities, it is fitting to start framing policy advocacy toward building the next farm bill—a five-year omnibus bill that sets policy for commodity support and risk management, publicly funded ag research, rural development, conservation and nutritional support programs like SNAP—with the current bill set to expire in September 2018. This will be the first time that a farm bill has been written under an entirely Republican House, Senate, and Administration since 1954.