Organic Check-off Proposal Open for Comment

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking public comments on the proposed Organic Research, Promotion, and Information Order, also known as a proposed organic check-off program. USDA will accept comments now through March 20, 2017. You may submit comments to www.regulations.gov, under docket number AMS-SC-16-0112.

The proposed organic check-off program would be funded by organic producers. It would include a range of agricultural commodities such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, poultry, breads, grains, snack foods, condiments, beverages, and packaged and prepared foods. It would also cover organic imports and non-food items such as textiles, personal care products, pet food, and flowers.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) submitted an application for consideration of the program and summarized the USDA proposal with the following points:

  • The check-off board would be made up of 50 percent producers and 50 percent handlers.
  • Producers would select their regional representatives through direct balloting.
  • Every single certificate holder subject to an assessment would have a direct vote–there is no bloc voting.
  • Assessments would be made throughout the value chain: producers, handlers, processors, and retailers.
  • Farmers and handlers with gross organic revenue below $250,000 would choose whether or not to pay into the program.
  • At least 50 to 75 percent of the funds would be earmarked specifically for research, or for activities that work hand-in-hand with research, like technical assistance and widespread dissemination of research findings.
  • Twenty-five percent of the assessment from producers would be required to be used for local and regional research. A board sub-committee of regional seat holders would recommend how those funds would be used.
  • All of the research, inventions, and innovations resulting from organic check-off programing would remain in the public domain.
  • A referendum would be required every seven years to decide whether or not to continue the program.

For more information about OTA’s advocacy for the program, visit GroOrganic.net. Information about the proposal is also available on the USDA’s summary and background page.

CCOF encourages all members to submit comments on the proposed check-off program. OTA CEO and Executive Director Laura Batcha will be available to answer members’ questions at Organic Innovation & Inspiration: the CCOF 2017 Annual Conference in Visalia, California, on Friday, February 10. Additionally, OTA staff are available to answer questions at this week’s EcoFarm Conference, which includes a panel discussion of the proposed program.

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