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USDA extends Organic Check-off public comment period to April 19, 2017

Organic Trade Assocation Statement: OTA Urges USDA to Move Forward with Organic Research and Promotion Check-off Program Proposal

The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is extending the comment period for the Organic Research, Promotion, and Information Order proposed rule published in the Federal Register on January 18, 2017 (82 FR 5746) from March 20 until April 19, 2017. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) urges the U.S. Department of Agriculture to move forward its proposal for a nationwide research and promotion check-off program for the organic industry, following the 30-day extension required to comply with the Administration’s earlier-announced review of all proposed new regulations.

Over 20 agricultural products have similar research and promotion orders, which allow pooling of private-sector dollars to support industry-wide research and consumer education campaigns.  This proposal would afford the organic industry the same opportunity as other industry groups, and it has gathered wide industry support.  The public comments received by USDA since its publication of the proposal on Jan 18 have been overwhelmingly, 10 to 1, in support of an organic check-off.  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.

This organic check-off is groundbreaking in that a minimum of 50% - and up to 75% - of the program’s dollars will be committed to  research, which is particularly important to organic farmers who face different  agricultural challenges than their counterparts.

In the 2014 Farm Bill, Congress adopted a provision with bi-partisan support that authorized the USDA to take up an organic check-off petition. Over four years in the making, the USDA proposal reflects a rigorous and transparent multi-year process, including gathering information from organic stakeholders throughout the country.

Increasingly, consumers are opting to spend a portion of their families’ food budgets on organic products.  Currently, domestic organic production is not keeping pace with consumer demand.  The organic check-off is one important part of helping US organic farmers better meet the public’s demand. OTA urges the USDA to avoid further delays once the comment period expires and to proceed to the next step in making this innovative program a reality that will help advance the growing organic sector and have important and long-lasting benefits for organic farmers, businesses and consumers alike.

OTA welcomes continued input to the proposal and upon expiration of the extended comment period, we urge USDA to do a thorough and timey review of the comments and then publish its final proposal in order to facilitate a vote on the proposed program by the organic sector, the final step in the process. Organic stakeholders deserve the chance to cast their vote, and to decide for themselves if they want to implement an organic check-off.


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Maggie McNeil                                                  
Director of Media Relations
202-615-7997   

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