by Daphne Mariko Drake
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is a North American organization founded in 1985, established to promote ethical consumerism and create a sound movement within the industry. They also work to protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public, and the economy. Also active members of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM), a worldwide umbrella organization for the organic agriculture movement, the OTA develops, refines, and advances organic standards so that consumers can have confidence in certified organic production. IFOAM monitors the work of government agencies, takes positions on legislation that affects organic agriculture and products, and represents the movement to regulators, elected officials, as well as international bodies.
The OTA works with public and private organizations to support scientific research regarding organic production and processing. This week, the OTA supported the Organic Standards Protection Act, which would give the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) the authority to stop the sale of products fraudulently labeled as organic. It would also improve its investigative process by requiring better recordkeeping, and impose a $10,000 fine on those producers or certifiers that continue to use the USDA organic seal after certification is revoked.
The OTA has welcomed this portion of legislation that would tighten controls on organic certification, saying that it would protect the integrity of the USDA’s National Organic Program seal. California Congresswoman Lois Capps introduced this piece of bipartisan legislation, stating “Failing to weed out imposter products puts our organic industries at a competitive disadvantage and could potentially damage the brand of organic products.”
In exciting news today, the Senate passed the 2012 Farm Bill, with 64-35 in favor of the bill. This bill will put local, organic food and fruit and vegetable production high on the national priority list, ear marking $100 million for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, and $70 million annually for the Specialty Crop Block program, which is designed to help fruits and vegetables compete with commodity crops. The Merkley-Snowe amendment of this bill would improve crop insurance for organic farmers; currently, organic farmers pay a higher premium for crop insurance than non-organic farms.
The Obama Administration also released a report highlighting the tremendous value of the organic sector as part of our nation’s diverse agricultural economy. The OTA released a report back in April showing that the organic food industry has generated more than $500,000 American jobs in 2010.
Although there is still much room for improvement and advancement, as members of the OTA Sunfood is very enthusiastic to be a part of these great initiatives. Keep tabs on OTA at their website, www.ota.com, and follow their Facebook and Twitter pages.