Comment on Organic Exemption Rule!

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently proposed a rule that exempts more organic producers, handlers, and importers from paying into conventional commodity check-off programs. The rule is open for comment through February 17, 2015.

The Proposed Exemption

The proposed rule includes significant expansions to the organic exemption from federal check-off programs. It allows split operations, e.g. operations with both organic and conventional production, to seek exemptions. It also expands the exemption to both the 100% organic label and to the primary organic label (95% organic). Previously, USDA reserved the exemption only for operations with 100% organic production and for the 100% organic label.

Additionally, the proposed rule will exempt eligible operations from paying into the portion of the assessment in federal marketing order programs designated for market promotion activities.

Why the Exemption Matters

USDA estimates that not having to contribute to conventional check-offs will free up an extra $13.6 million for organic stakeholders to invest back into the organic industry. Many feel that the organic producers and processors would benefit from the exemption because the organic community has unique research and promotion needs that are not adequately represented despite current contributions to conventional check-off programs.

How to Weigh In

To submit your comment on the proposed exemptions, I recommend using the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA) sample letter to get started. Then follow OTA’s comment instructions for submitting the comment. The deadline to comment is February 17, 2015.