Organic Trade Association proposes voluntary organic check-off

Initiatives will include consumer research on the most effective ways to reinforce the organic brand. Photo: Getty Images

By Glacier FarmMedia staff

The Organic Trade Association on Sept. 6 announced a plan to 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.

“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,” said Batcha. “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.”

Everyone in our organic industry has a stake in eliminating consumer confusion. – Laura Batcha

The trade association has formed a Steering Committee to coordinate and lead the efforts to address governance questions around a voluntary program that will foster coordinated organic research and promotion.

“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.”

A Governance subcommittee will be opening up a comment period in the fall of 2018 for interested parties to provide detailed comments in writing to address key questions.

A second subcommittee named Immediate Programming will identify programs to advance organic, and coordinate and fund those programs immediately.

The Organic Trade Association submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in May 2015 to consider implementing an organic check-off program. USDA in January 2017 officially proposed a nationwide organic check-off program, opening the process for public comments. Last May, USDA abruptly terminated the rulemaking process despite comments in support of the program from more than 12,000 individuals and businesses, including thousands of organic farmers, ranchers and business stakeholders.