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U.S. organic raises its global profile in 2023

Organic Trade Association and The Organic Center increase organic’s visibility around the world 

While international trade expert Sarah Gorman was in Germany this fall helping to showcase American organic products to thousands of fair goers at the biggest food and beverage trade show in the world, scientist Dr. Amber Sciligo was on the other side of the globe trekking across China with a small group of international organic researchers and lecturing on organic agriculture at Chinese universities.  

Gorman is the Manager of International Trade for the Organic Trade Association (OTA). Sciligo is the Director of Science programs for The Organic Center.  For over a decade, OTA and The Organic Center have collaborated to advance organic and educate the public on organic’s many benefits, while also working separately to fulfill their related missions. This past year the two organizations reached more people than ever outside the borders of the United States.    

“Organic is a global movement,” says Sciligo. “Exchanging knowledge about the successes and challenges facing organic farmers across the globe strengthens the relationships between leaders in organic research and encourages collaboration that allows organic research projects to build off one another. This global interaction enchances the work of researchers and results in more impactful outcomes.” 

“Global demand for organic just keeps growing,” says Gorman. “For more than 20 years OTA has represented the face of U.S. organic abroad through the Department of Agriculture’s Market Access Program (MAP). This coming year, with some potential additional funding from USDA, we look forward to expanding our activities to untapped markets around the world.” 

Mongolia to the Middle East, with many stops in between 

In September, Sciligo went to China at the invitation of IFOAM Asia to represent the U.S. alongside organic researchers from 14 countries on a tour of four major growing areas. The two main goals of the tour: to exchange knowledge about the successes and challenges facing organic farmers across the globe, and to develop connections between international organic scientists, researchers and educators.  

For two weeks, Sciligo rubbed elbows and traded information with organic researchers from India, Indonesia, Korea, Tunisia, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Italy, Argentina, Germany, South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda, Australia and various regions of China. When not speaking at four organic research events, Sciligo and the group learned about the organic supply chain in China and toured several organic farms, including an organic farm oasis in the middle of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia where sand dunes had been transformed into a fully functioning farm growing alfalfa, corn, sunflowers and supporting one of the country’s largest organic dairy operations. 

“When resources are limited, as is often the case when it comes to most things organic versus its counterpart, more can be accomplished through partnerships,” says Sciligo. “These partnerships must be built at all scales from local communities to global cooperation. I look forward to nurturing the relationships built in China and to growing The Organic Center’s international network of organic scientists to collectively advance impactful research that benefits the organic sector worldwide.”   

Gorman led a full plate of international activities supporting American organic growers and businesses in 2023. Backed by a record amount of funding from USDA’s Market Access Program of over $1 million, the Organic Trade Association showcased American-produced products to a wide and diverse global audience stretching from the world’s biggest organic trade fair in Germany to market development across Europe, Asia and the Middle East.  More than three dozen organic brands producing a wide array of organic products ranging from spices and nuts to dairy products and frozen fruits participated in OTA’s activities. The trade association facilitated exposure to thousands of potential customers at international trade shows, through OTA-hosted events that linked buyers and sellers, and in consumer promotion work through social media campaigns, retail promotions and consumer education.    

Gorman and the OTA team not only promote American-produced organic products around the world, but also act as thought-leaders and information-providers to the international audience. Case in point is Biofach, the world’s largest trade fair devoted to organic, which takes place in Nuremberg, Germany. About 36,000 trade visitors from 135 countries attended the 2023 event. OTA sponsored 10 companies at the show, and those companies reported amazing success with projected sales of over $2 million. Almost 150 new foreign buyer contacts were made, as well as over 100 solid leads for future sales. 

While the companies were drumming up new business, OTA staff participated in five different panels within the Biofach Congress, discussing topics ranging from U.S. market updates to policy initiatives and regulatory changes with the recent passing of USDA’s Strengthening Organic Enforcement regulation. OTA CEO Tom Chapman additionally moderated a panel with USDA Under Secretary Jenny Lester Moffitt to discuss U.S./EU organic policy issues and collaboration opportunities.   

“Our global activities not only benefit the participating organic brands but provide our staff with critical perspectives and information to help form and advance the association’s international trade development strategy,” says Gorman. “We learn so much by participating in these global events, and with this knowledge we can better promote American organic around the world.” 

More global outreach ahead 

Both Gorman and Sciligo are looking forward to more global connections in 2024. 

The Organic Center is exploring ways to boost the knowledge exchange between researchers and farmers from the U.S. and abroad – sharing international research results from organic farmers abroad with U.S. researchers and farmers, and likewise with American data and research to the international community. The goal will be to share knowledge that will benefit all participants.  

The Organic Trade Association is aiming for an even bigger presence in the global arena for American organic. Plans are already underway to sponsor the largest organic contingent at Biofach to date, with some 16 sponsored companies. OTA supported activities will again occur all over the world, including new and untapped venues. 

Organic. A global movement indeed.