OTA Petitions USDA For Organic Check-Off

Washington, D.C. – According to a press release, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) announced Tuesday that they are petitioning the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to enable a vote to “implement a research and promotion check-off program for the organic industry.”

The OTA, along with the GRO Organic Core Committee, are looking to make organic products recognized as a distinct classification for the first time during the 49-year history of the check-off programs.

“The organic industry in America is thriving and maturing, but it is at a critical juncture,” according to Laura Batcha, chief executive officer and executive director of OTA. “An organic check-off program would give organic stakeholders the opportunity to collectively invest in research, build domestic supply and communicate the value of the organic brand to advance the entire industry to a new level.”

The program would contain the following principles:

  • The Check-off Board will be made up of 50% producers and 50% handlers.
  • Producers will select their regional representative through a vote.
  • Every seven years, there will be a referendum to decide the status of the program.
  • Farmers and handlers will gross organic revenue below $250,000 will decide whether or not to pay into the program.
  • At least 25% of the funding will be put toward research.
  • All research, inventions and innovations resulting from the program will remain in the public domain.

With the petition in place, the next step is for the USDA to review the application, and then an official proposal will be published in the Federal Register.  Following that, there will be a public comment period before a majority vote will be required from the organic stakeholders to pay the petition.

Additionally, the USDA has announced that a certified organic database is expected to be launched in September 2015.

Since the beginning of 2002, according to the USDA’s National Organic Program, the number of domestic organic operations has increased by more than 250% and is currently at 19,474 certified organic operations. Internationally, there are a total of 27, 814 certified organic operations.

“As demand for organic products continues to soar, more and more producers are entering the organic market,” said Tom Vilsack, the secretary of agriculture. “Growing demand for organic goods can be especially helpful to smaller family operations. The more diverse type of operations and the more growing market sectors we have in American agriculture, the better off our country’s rural economy will be.”

According to the press release, the new database is a “modernized certified organic operations that is updated on a regular basis. The modernized system will allow anyone to confirm organic certification status using the online tool, support market research and supply chain connections, allow international verification or operator status to streamline import and export certificates and establish technology connections with certifiers to provide more accurate and timely date.”

Published in WholeFoods Magazine Online, 5/14/15