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Bipartisan bill introduced to ensure continued advancement of organic

Organic Trade Association says bill enables organic to progress, secures consumer confidence

Maggie McNeil
(202) 615-7997
October 18, 2023
) — 

Washington, D.C.  — The Organic Trade Association applauds the introduction of critical bipartisan legislation in Congress to ensure organic standards continuously evolve and improve, and to hold the federal government accountable for keeping up with the needs and expectations of the dynamic organic marketplace.  

The “Continuous Improvement and Accountability in Organic Standards Act (CIAO) 2023” H.R. 5973 was introduced on October 17, 2023, by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME). The legislation would amend the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 to provide a streamlined and predictable process to review and revise organic standards implemented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It would enable the improvement and advancement of organic to forge ahead into the future.   

“Ensuring continuous improvement for organic is our highest priority in the 2023 Farm Bill, and this legislation goes far to address that objective,” said Tom Chapman, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “CIAO is the result of a broad coalition of farmers, industry, environmental and other organizations working together with Congress to ensure organic continues to be a dynamic opportunity for growth and able to meet the future needs and desires of both producers and consumers.”  

The coalition supporting the legislation reflects the largest organic coalition in recent history spearheaded by OTA, and includes the National Organic Coalition which is made up of more than a dozen farmer organizations, non-profit consumer, environmental and animal welfare organizations, and organic businesses and certifiers; the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance which is a national coalition of more than 200 organizations representing growers of fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, nursery plants and other products; the Organic Famers Association and the Organic Produce Association.  

The bill requires the USDA to review and revise national organic standards “not less frequently than once every five years.” It highlights the continuation of the established process of consultation with the National Organic Standards Board and input from the public. It states that in proposing any revisions, the USDA and the National Organic Standards Board “shall consider the best available information, including environmental and ecological data, consumer and market data, current organic production and handling practices, current organic research, and scientific data.” 

Since the first nationwide organic standards were officially established on Dec. 21, 2000, the comprehensive network of federal requirements and regulations that monitor and check the organic industry supply chain have been transparent, and voluntarily powered and driven by organic farmers and businesses and the organic community. This unique private-public partnership has made the organic regulatory system the gold standard for food and agricultural systems around the world. 

The organic sector has thrived under the system, growing to more than a $67 billion market in the U.S., with the USDA Organic seal one of the most trusted consumer labels. However, unregulated labels in the grocery aisles continue to proliferate, sometimes causing confusion among consumers and threatening to weaken the confidence in the USDA Organic label.  

The federal regulatory apparatus has fallen behind the evolving organic sector and the market in the last several years and has slowed innovation and continuous improvement within the industry.  OTA and other stakeholders in the organic industry recognize USDA needs the right tools to continue to be more responsive to organic producers and provide the right regulatory framework to assist and maximize the growth of the industry.   

“CIAO is an important step forward in recognizing USDA must continue to evolve the standards as new information, practices, and market forces arise.  Organic is a growing and very dynamic industry and new best practices and opportunities are appearing every day because of investments in research and other adaptions.  CIAO allows USDA to carefully consider and solicit input and work to update those standards in a thoughtful and predictable fashion” said Peter J. Mihalick, Senior Director of Government Affairs for the Organic Trade Association. 


About the Organic Trade Association

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 10,000 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.