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Reminder: Comment Now on OTA GRO Organic Initiative

by Peter Nell |

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is now accepting comments on the GRO Organic initiative. Generate Results and Opportunity for Organic (GRO Organic) is a private-sector initiative for a voluntary industry-invested organic research, promotion, and education check-off like program. It will be collaboratively designed and implemented by organic stakeholders. 

Comments on the initiative can be submitted through April 30, 2019 to Anonymous responses will not be accepted. Submissions must include name, location, and business affiliations so that the GRO Organic Steering Committee can seek clarifications and ask questions.

The Organic Trade Association issued the following request for feedback:  

1. Tell Us Your Big Idea!

Do you have a good idea? Something that could have important and long-lasting benefits for organic farmers, companies or consumers? Maybe you already have a specific idea for how the organic industry could break through to consumers about the benefits of organic, or boost support systems to transition more U.S. organic farmers and acres? If you have a big idea, please tell us what it is. Then, challenge yourself to consider your big idea, or the general GRO concept for voluntary coordinated research, promotion, and education, against the following strategic questions. Put pen to paper and really walk us through how your ideas could work.

2. Participation Questions

(Remember, this not a mandatory check-off. Everyone will have a choice about whether to opt-in to participate.)

a. Who are the stakeholders who could and/or should opt-in to participate? 

b. How do we maximize participation?

c. How do we make sure there is equitable participation?

d. How do we encourage participation at both ends of the supply chain—farmers and retailers, of all types and sizes?

e. Should there be recognition for those who participate?

3. Funding Questions

(Remember, this not a mandatory check-off. Everyone will have a choice about whether to contribute financially to support the program.)

a. Should the cost to participate be based on organic sales?

b. Should the cost to participate be standardized or discretionary?

c. Who should be funding the program?

d. Should there be a different model for points along the supply chain (e.g. producers, manufacturers, distributors, importers, retailers, etc.)?

4. Decision-Making Questions

(Remember, it’s up to us to set up the governance parameters for how program decisions get made.)

a. How should priorities get set? How should decisions be made? 

b. What should be the composition of decision-makers?

c. Should participants have equal voice, or should influence be weighted based on contribution?

d. Should we be building a framework that could be a USDA federal check-off program in the future?

e. Should there be restrictions on how the dollars could be used?

5. Programming Questions

(Remember, we want to develop programming to research, promote, and educate about organic that provides a meaningful return on investment.)

a. What macro priorities will benefit all organic businesses? 

b. How can priority areas be set and sustained over time?

c. Should there be a set allocation of funds or discretion based on priorities?

d. How can the priorities between each sector’s needs and the biggest needs for organic overall be balanced?

e. How should a communications strategy that has broad buy-in be developed? 

f. What are your thoughts on how to best approach promoting organic? 

g. Besides research, promotion, and technical assistance, are there other critical priorities to address?

h. What are the top three research priorities GRO can address? 

6. General Questions

a. Should we continue to call a voluntary program a “check-off?” What better describes the effort?

b. Do you know of other industry-invested research or consumer education programs that you suggest we look at?

c. What other questions need to be asked?

Stakeholders can also request a meeting with OTA to discuss GRO Organic. 

A federally mandated organic check-off program was proposed by OTA in 2015. USDA officially proposed a nationwide organic check-off program in 2017, but ultimately terminated the rulemaking process before a referendum vote on the program was held. 

Currently four prototype programs are underway for coordinated organic research, promotion, and education. The first is a national campaign in collaboration with Organic Voices titled “It’s Not Complicated” to reduce consumer confusion about organic. Other programs include in-depth consumer research on how to reinforce the organic brand, advance soil health and climate change research to fill in knowledge gaps and show the beneficial impacts of organic, and provide funding for more organic extension agents across the country. 

For more information or questions about GRO Organic, contact Tessa Young at OTA.