From the East Wing of the White House to the Halls of Congress, organic is spreading its roots in the nation’s capital. Today’s crop of organic influencers is making a difference in agricultural policy, federal legislation, international affairs, food and health guidelines, public research approaches, and environmental issues. The number of organic advocates in Washington has probably never been greater, including individuals with genuine down-to-earth roots in certified organic agriculture. In this edition, we are profiling a handful of these folks who are making their voices heard. These hard-working and committed individuals show how organic truly is seeding changes—in the food we eat, the way we think, and the future of our world.
For the second year running, OTA was a sponsor at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) annual meeting, which focused on states and their key role in creating diversity and organic options in agriculture.
Developing any federal regulation takes a considerable amount of time and energy. The organic sector has an additional layer to this process, as most new organic regulations originate as recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and undergo an arduous journey of public scrutiny and rulemaking. The long-awaited ‘Origin of Livestock’ proposed rule released this summer illustrates the deliberate and transparent steps that must occur for an organic production concept to become codified in the federal regulations.
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.
Florida's fruit and vegetable production is year-round and the second largest in the United States. However, since most is exported, a problem exists: few Florida residents purchase and consume Florida-grown produce. Add to that scenario the fact that nearly one in six Floridians is without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.
For years, OTA has focused its resources on influencing the national policy debate around organic agriculture priorities—things like ensuring the National Organic Program has the tools it needs to fully enforce the organic regulations, appropriating federal funds for organic-specific research, and developing a proposal for an organic research and promotion program. These debates take place in the context of the Farm Bill and appropriations.
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.
“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.
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.