Did You Know…

There’s a conversation taking place—right now—about the idea of a collective research and marketing program to expand the reach and benefits of organic food, fiber and farming. Please join the conversation and consider that…

…US organic acreage is actually shrinking, not growing

Farm-gate sales of organic crops reached 3.53 billion dollars in 2011 from 3.6 million certified acres. However, organic is still less than 1 percent of U.S. farmland. In the last three years there has been a decrease in the number of certified organic acres in the United States. Closing the gap between demand for organic products and U.S. organic production is a top objective in which research plays a critical role. Organic agricultural innovation, tools and alternative inputs are necessary to reverse this trend.

…uncertified eco-labels are confusing consumers and cutting into the organic market

Consumer research indicates a high level of confusion among consumers regarding verifiable organic claims and ‘natural’ and other eco-claims in the market place. Most consumers wrongly attribute organic benefits to unregulated natural products, with a recent study showing only one in ten consumers understands the difference between natural and organic. Long-term success of the organic sector requires a consistent investment in research and education, and promotion of certified organic that does not exist today.

…organic producers and handlers are currently paying in to conventional research and promotion programs (akacheck-off programs”) that are doing nothing to advance organic food and farming

Currently, there are eighteen check-off programs in place including beef, eggs, fluid milk processors, Hass avocados, mushrooms, pork, potatoes, soybeans, and watermelons among others. Many organic businesses are already paying into these conventional check-off programs at a cost of close to $20M per year. For the most part, these programs ignore organic, although some are actually actively working AGAINST promoting organic as a choice. A close examination of the varying structures of these existing programs will allow the organic sector to emulate what works well and eliminate what doesn’t work to create a unique and valuable program option for organic.

…an organic research and promotion program could generate upwards of $30 million/year to expand the reach and benefits of organic food, fiber and farming

Conservatively projecting, a research and promotion program could generate $30M – 40M per year for organic. This may not seem like a lot, but consider that the U.S. Farm Bill tally for organic in 2011 (i.e. National Organic Program, Organic Production and Marketing Data, Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, and Organic Certification Cost Share Program) accounted for barely $33 million out of the $300 billion bill. With Farm Bill funding at risk, an organic research and promotion program could be the largest investment in organic available to help meet the sector’s critical needs.

…there is a framework for an organic research and promotion program that you can help shape with your feedback

After collecting input from over 500 individuals at 26 webinars and town hall meetings over the past 18 months, OTA has consolidated stakeholder feedback into a framework of options for a potential program, and is encouraging all certified operations to weigh in with detailed feedback and preference. There are many different ideas and experiences regarding a potential cooperative research and marketing program, and we want to make sure certified organic producers and handlers add their voice to the mix. After reviewing the Preamble, anyone can weigh-in with detailed feedback and preferences on the Organic Research and Promotion Program Options for a Framework stakeholder survey.

…the current proposal includes an exemption for farmers making less than $250K

While much of the feedback collected from stakeholders to date has said that organic producers should not be assessed, the general sentiment reflected a concern for small operators rather than excluding the largest producers from assessments. Proposed options reflect the range of perspectives, and include a provision to exempt producers and handlers whose gross revenue is below $250,000 per year based on the USDA National Commission on Small Farms definition.

…your voice and your vote absolutely matters; nothing will move forward without two thirds support

OTA’s role is to facilitate this process – not to set the parameters. All substantive decisions regarding the parameters of a potential program are being made by the industry itself. Once the framework for a potential program has been defined by the industry, including specific details about assessments and governance, a straw poll will be taken to quantify the overall support.

..the Organic Trade Association is a membership association, representing 6,500 certified operations, with a democratically elected Board of Directors

OTA is committed to broad stakeholder engagement and encourages everyone across the organic sector to weigh in on the discussion. OTA is facilitating the conversation around this opportunity, but an organic research and promotion program, if established would be governed by an independent Board of Directors chosen by certified organic producers and handlers contributing to the program. The law requires that an Organic Research and Promotion Program could not be a funding vehicle for OTA.