USA: GROorganic Check-off program
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GRO Organic Check-off is a proposal for a nationwide research and promotion program for the organic sector. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking public comments. The complete text of the proposal is available for review on the Federal Register.
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) hailed the action as a significant step that will advance the growing organic sector and have important and long-lasting benefits for organic farmers, businesses and consumers alike.
"We applaud USDA moving forward on this proposal that was authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill with strong bipartisan support," said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of OTA. "OTA led the drive for this check-off because the organic industry is at a critical point. This organic check-off will provide research and key tools to encourage more farmers to go organic and help all organic farmers be more successful. It will educate consumers in a positive way about what that organic seal really means. For the benefit of all of us, this proactive program will further the success of organic agriculture for the long term."
Over $30 million a year for research possible
Going on public display in the Federal Register on January 17, the organic industry proposal estimates the organic check-off, referred to as GRO Organic (Generic Research and Promotion Order for Organic), could raise over $30 million a year to spend on research to make farmers successful, technical services to accelerate the adoption of organic practices, and consumer education and promotion of the organic brand.
OTA officially submitted an application to USDA in May 2015 on behalf of the organic industry to consider implementing the program after gathering information over three years throughout the country in town hall meetings, panel discussions, surveys and phone calls. OTA submitted a revised application a year later to reflect alternatives presented to USDA from organic certificate holders.
Early in its process, OTA conducted multiple surveys of all organic certificate holders across the nation--some 17,500 stakeholders at that time--to gauge the interest in an organic check-off. In the various surveys, OTA got a response of around 5,000 certificate holders, which showed that twice as many certified operators supported the establishment of an organic check-off program as opposed. To date, nearly 1,400 organic stakeholders publicly support the GRO Organic check-off, with 75 percent of those organic certificate holders being farmers and ranchers.
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