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Diverse panel of farmers agree: Strong organic program is critical

Growers urge lawmakers and USDA to advance organic through continuous improvement

Maggie McNeil
(202) 403-8514
(202) 615-7997
Washington , DC
October 30, 2019
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Testifying before a Congressional committee on Wednesday, a diverse panel of organic famers from all sizes and types of operations, from geographic regions across the United States, had one important commonality -- a strong commitment to robust government support for organic agriculture and the stringent enforcement of organic standards.

The growers told members of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research that to continue to flourish, the organic sector must continue to improve and be allowed to evolve. They called on the federal government to shepherd a strong organic program with consistent regulations, adequate safety net programs, help for farmers transitioning to organic, protection from organic fraud and research dollars dedicated to organic.

The hearing, titled “Reviewing the State of Organic Agriculture: Producer Perspectives,” was designed to provide an opportunity for lawmakers to hear directly from farmers on the challenges and opportunities in organic.

The panel included two members of the Organic Trade Association – Jeff Huckaby, president of Grimmway Farms/Cal-Organic vegetable farms, and Steve Pierson, organic dairy farmer from Oregon and member of the Organic Valley cooperative. Both Huckaby and Pierson stressed the need for the government to implement and enforce strong organic standards.

“Organic farmers and businesses are unique in that they rely on the federal government to develop and maintain strong regulations for the organic sector,” said Huckaby in prepared testimony. “The future of organic will depend on the federal government keeping pace with the marketplace. Organic regulations must be meaningful and strong … The public-private partnership between the organic industry and USDA is a process that must embody continuous improvement and evolution of the organic standards to meet consumer expectations.”

Pierson noted in his prepared testimony that one of the main challenges in today’s organic dairy sector is “regulatory uncertainty in organic standards,” pointing to the Origin of Livestock regulation as a pressing problem the government needs to settle. His testimony said there is “strong consensus” among organic dairy farmers for USDA “to fix this regulatory failing.”

Also testifying were organic vegetable, flower and herb grower Benjamin Whalen of Maine, organic cotton farmer Jeremy Brown of Texas, and organic fruit and vegetable grower Shelli Brin of the Virgin Islands.

“Today’s hearing was especially notable in that all the growers on the panel – no matter how big or small an operation, no matter what crops they farmed or in what area – all agree that organic needs strong and consistent support from the government to enable continuous improvement in the sector,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “We thank Chairwoman Stacey Plaskett for making this hearing possible, and all the committee members for their interest in organic and their support of organic agriculture.” Watch the full hearing here.

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 9,500 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.