WASHINGTON — The Organic Trade Association on Sept. 6 said it is moving forward with a voluntary, industry-invested organic research, promotion and education check-off program. The announcement comes after the U.S. Department of Agriculture in May terminated the rule-making process for a proposed nationwide organic check-off program run by the federal government.
“The Organic Trade Association recognizes great demand for coordinated organic research and promotion, and the organic sector is ready to work together on innovative solutions that will have key benefits for organic,” said Laura Batcha, chief executive officer and executive director of the Washington-based association. “In today’s political environment, organic companies and stakeholders are increasingly seeking private sector solutions, and the trade association is taking the lead in supporting these efforts.
“There is a critical need to educate consumers about organic, for more technical assistance to help more farmers transition to organic, and to loudly promote the organic brand. Responding to that need, we are launching a two-track effort to develop a voluntary governance approach and to also advance initiatives that will deliver immediate big wins for the organic sector.”
The association has formed a steering committee, which has established two subcommittees: a governance subcommittee and an immediate programming subcommittee.
The governance subcommittee this fall will offer a comment period that will allow people to give ideas on how to maximize participation in the voluntary program and on how to decide on investments. Ms. Batcha, Gary Hirshberg, co-founder of Stonyfield Farm, Inc., and Kim Dietz, senior manager for environmental, natural and organic policy for the J.M. Smucker Co., are on the subcommittee. Other members are Marty Mesh, executive director of the Florida Organic Growers, Perry Clutts, owner of the Pleasant View organic dairy farm, Melissa Hughes, chief mission officer and general counsel for Organic Valley, Melody Meyer, president of Source Organic, and Grant Lundberg, c.e.o. of Lundberg Family Farms.
The immediate programming subcommittee will identify programs to advance organic interests and coordinate and fund the programs.
The check-off program will conduct consumer research on the most effective ways to reinforce the organic brand, advance research to fill in gaps for organic farmers and to show beneficial impacts of organic on environmental and human health, and provide funding for more organic extension agents. A series of informational meetings on the check-off program will be held at the Natural Products Expo East trade show Sept. 12-15 in Baltimore.
“The organic community is committed to enabling a sound, resilient and sustainable future, and we look forward to everyone’s participation and influence,” Ms. Batcha said. “We want to make sure, through our collective efforts, that organic flourishes and grows for many years to come.”