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In a groundbreaking move for the nation's organic sector, the Organic Trade Association (OTA), in collaboration with the GRO Organic Core Committee, formally petitioned the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to begin steps to conduct a vote on and implement a research and promotion check-off program for the organic industry.
OTA's action reflects three years of dialogue with the entire organic sector and comes 25 years after Congress authorized USDA's National Organic Program. Marking the first time in the 49-year history of US agricultural check-off programs that organic could be recognized as a distinct commodity class based on production practices, it could have significant and game-changing ramifications for the burgeoning organic sector. Unlike any other check-off program, the proposed organic check-off has been designed to solve what hasn't worked in other research and promotion programs, emphasizes what has worked, and creates an innovative program tailor-made for organic.
"The organic industry in America is thriving and maturing, but it is at a critical juncture," said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of OTA. "Many consumers remain unaware of what that organic seal really means. Organic production in this country is not keeping pace with the robust demand. 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 proposal estimates the organic check-off, referred to as GRO Organic (Generic Research and Promotion Order for Organic), could raise over US$30 million a year to advance the organic sector. Rooted in a strong focus on research to make farmers successful and technical services to accelerate the adoption of organic practices, the proposed program is designed to address organic's most pressing needs.