WASHINGTON– More than 500 organic stakeholders across 45 states weighed in on issues they see as critical to the organic sector as part of a comprehensive farm bill survey conducted by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) in the lead up to Congress beginning debate on the 2018 Farm Bill.
Organic fruit and vegetable growers, grains and oilseed farmers, livestock and poultry producers, dairy farmers, vineyard owners and flower growers, along with organic processors, food makers, distributors and other organic operations answered questions concerning barriers they face in their organic operations—from regulatory, research, and marketing, to production and investment barriers. Survey respondents also evaluated the effectiveness of existing programs geared towards the organic sector. In preparation for developing its advocacy work on the next farm bill, OTA partnered with members of OTA’s Farmers Advisory Council and other organic organizations —17 of them—to poll stakeholders directly on issues.
“The 50-billion-dollar-a year organic industry has earned a seat at the farm bill table as one of the bright spots in the farm economy. Organic farmers, ranchers, handlers, and food and textile makers add measurable value to rural economies, creating jobs and raising incomes—and they do this by responding to consumers’ interest in how their food is grown and made,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “We want to build on the success of past farm bills and focus on expanding the production base,supporting successful organic farmers and ensuring healthy markets.”
The Farm Bill—a five-year omnibus bill that sets policy for commodity support and risk management, publicly funded agricultural research, rural development, conservation and nutritional support programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)—is set to expire in September 2018.
Survey participants cited lack of university or professional programs focusing on organic processing and technology, and lack of consumer awareness of organic’s benefits and value as critical challenges—or barriers—for both organic producers and handlers. Specific producer concerns were the cost of buying land, and the cost and availability of labor. Organic processors and food makers said a pressing issue is the lack of dependable supply of domestic organic raw materials.
Some of the top organic policy actions suggested by participants:
- Strong support for the National Organic Program in applying uniform standards and providing strong oversight across the globe,
- Increased public education about the benefits of organic,
- Investment to support transition to organic and access to land programs for new organic farmers,
- Increased funding for organic production and ingredient research,
- Programs to improve transparency and tracking of international organic trade,
- Improved and increased data on the organic industry.
“Thanks to the Organic Farming Research Foundation and our many survey partners, we received responses from a diverse cross-section of the industry, which will assist us in developing policy recommendations for the next farm bill. Input from the organic sector is invaluable in shaping all of our advocacy efforts, and as we prepare for a new farm bill, we value the comments and observations from organic stakeholders even more,” said Megan DeBates, Director of Legislative Affairs and Coalitions at OTA.
“To represent and advocate for organic as effectively as possible in the debate over the next farm bill, and with a new Administration and a new Congress, OTA did what we frequently do—we reached out to the organic community for their feedback to guide us,” DeBates added.
Batcha said OTA is now using the information obtained in the survey to build a well-vetted farm bill platform with additional input from OTA task forces and councils. Efforts will then focus on educating Congress and the Administration about the importance of America’s almost $50 billion organic industry, the priorities of the country’s more than 20,000 organic operators, and the expectations of millions of organic consumers.
In addition to the Organic Farming Research Foundation, the partners in the survey were the Washington State Department of Agriculture, Oregon Tilth*, Tilth Producers of Washington*, CCOF* (California Certified Organic Farmers), Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative*, Montana Organic Association*, Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service, Florida Organic Growers, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Pennsylvania Certified Organic, Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative/Organic Prairie*, Mid-America Organic Association, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners, Provender Alliance, Organic Seed Alliance and Quality Assurance International. (*Participants in OTA’s Farmer’s Advisory Council)
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. OTA is the leading voice for the organic trade in the United States, representing over 8,500 organic businesses across 50 states. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers’ associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA’s Board of Directors is democratically elected by its members. OTA’s mission is to promote and protect ORGANIC with a unifying voice that serves and engages its diverse members from farm to marketplace. The Organic Trade Association does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation or marital/family status. Persons with disabilities, who require alternative means for communication of program information, should contact us.