On May 12, 2015, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) submitted a formal petition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requesting the establishment of an organic check-off program.
Check-off programs are intended to provide specific agricultural industries with a method for furthering promotion and research. Federally legislated and monitored by USDA, check-off programs are requested, administered, and funded by each specific industry. Currently, check-off programs exist for the beef, pork, eggs, soybeans, sorghum, and lamb industries.
According to OTA, an organic check-off program is necessary because many consumers are confused regarding the differences between organic, all natural, and non GMO products. A check-off program would provide a way for the organic industry to clarify these differences and promote the organic brand. Furthermore, OTA cites a need to provide the organic industry with research regarding pest management solutions.
Under OTA’s proposed check-off plan, all organic producers generating $250,000 or more in annual gross organic revenue would automatically be enrolled in the program. Producers generating less than $250,000 in annual gross organic revenue would have the ability to voluntarily opt into the program. The program is to be funded through the collection of assessment fees charged to organic producers, organic handlers, and organic importers.
OTA acknowledges that the main opposition to the organic check-off program is found within the organic community. Much of this opposition results from a concern that the program will only help large scale organic producers at the expense of small family farms.
Written by M. Sean High - Staff Attorney
May 18, 2015