OTA to advance voluntary checkoff program | TSLN.com

OTA to advance voluntary checkoff program

Following the Trump administration's decision last May to terminate the rule making process for an organic checkoff program, the Organic Trade Association announced Thursday it will move forward with a voluntary industry-invested organic research, promotion and education check-off program.

"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, CEO and executive director for the Organic Trade 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," said Batcha.

"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 trade association has formed a steering committee to coordinate and lead the efforts and address the governance questions.

"These big ideas all live under the banner of GRO — shorthand for Generate Results and Opportunity for Organic," said Batcha. "Everyone in our organic industry has a stake in eliminating consumer confusion, growing the market, and building the organic brand, so we'll work collectively to ensure the future of organic."

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The steering committee established two subcommittees to guide the process — a governance subcommittee and an immediate programming subcommittee.

To "gain the best thinking from stakeholders about some of the critical questions that need to be addressed regarding how to maximize participation in a voluntary program and how to make the best decisions on investments," the governance subcommittee will open a comment period this fall for interested parties to provide detailed comments in writing.

The proposed USDA checkoff was not without controversy. Advocates for small, organic farmers claim it was dominated by larger producers and retailers.

"The organic community is committed to enabling a sound, resilient and sustainable future, and we look forward to everyone's participation and influence," said Batcha. "We want to make sure — through our collective efforts — that organic flourishes and grows for many years to come."

–The Hagstrom Report