U.S. decision gives organic growers choice in commodity programs - FreshFruitPortal.com

U.S. decision gives organic growers choice in commodity programs

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U.S. decision gives organic growers choice in commodity programs

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) has applauded a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) decision that will allow organic producers to opt out of conventional commodity check-off programs. USDA Organic Panorama

The decision, which could give organic growers the opportunity to put their dollars into a proposed organic research and promotion order, was hailed as a major victory and step forward for the organic sector.

"OTA and organic stakeholders put in a tireless effort to include in the Farm Bill major policy advancements for the organic sector," said OTA CEO Laura Batcha.

"These are important gains for organic farmers and the organic industry, and will help the organic sector invest in its future.

"It was the clear intention of Congress to provide choice for organic farmers, ranchers and handlers. We are pleased that the organic sector will be able to invest in its unique needs for organic research and promotion that are so critical to the future success of organic."

The USDA said the exemption from paying into conventional check-offs for organic farmers, handlers, marketers, or importers with the 100% organic label would be extended to the primary organic label (95% organic) and pertain not exclusively to farmers or handlers who work solely with organic products, but also to those who produce, process, handle and import both organic and conventional products.

The USDA estimates that not having to contribute to conventional check-offs will free up an extra US$13.6 million per year for organic stakeholders to invest back into the organic industry.

There are now 22 national commodity check-off programs in place in the U.S. These programs are funded by producers of the specific commodity and have been a part of American agriculture for almost 50 years.

The new rule will also exempt eligible operations from paying into the portion of the assessment in federal marketing order programs designated for market promotion activities.

"The Farm Bill also authorized USDA to consider and hold a vote on an organic check-off, and we now look forward to USDA moving forward on our proposal," said OTA vice president of government affairs Marni Karlin.

In a study recently released from Santa Clara University, researchers in April and May of 2013 surveyed California organic produce growers who were subject to government-mandated marketing programs (GMMP) in the state and found widespread dissatisfaction regarding the benefits of these programs for organic.

A majority of the producers surveyed, which included large and small growers of some 14 different types of organic produce and in all parts of the state, felt that organic crops were not being specifically promoted, and were concerned that none, or very little, of what they were contributing in assessments were being set aside for organic.



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