ORPP is not the call of some exotic water fowl. It’s an acronym for one of the most exciting ideas I have encountered in my entire career. It stands for Organic Research and Promotions Program, which could be a mechanism for creating much needed funding for organic research, education and promotion of our burgeoning industry.
The concept isn’t new. The dairy and egg industries each have one—just think of those catchy slogans, “The Incredible Edible Egg” and “Got Milk.” Those programs don’t stop with promotion. They provide much needed funding for research that helps producers operate more efficiently and mitigate risks. The campaigns also provide consumer education on the myriad benefits those products provide.
What if the organic industry could create that kind of public awareness? What if our growers and producers had access to more research that produced more effective seeds, better weed and pest controls and a greater understanding of organic soil? What if the average consumer understood that food bearing the organic seal is regulated by the USDA with rigorous enforcement?
WOW, now that’s an idea I think we can all get behind.
The OTA has been facilitating discussions about just what an Organic Research and Promotions Program would look like and how it would work. Essentially, it means having organic stakeholders each pay in a small amount to provide a large pool of collective resources to benefit the entire community. Some worry that farmers could bear the burden. But if organic demand skyrockets as a result of the program, farmers will only win. If research dollars create more efficient methods to produce more organic products, farmers will also see the benefit.
Here’s another question some people are asking: Aren’t we doing just fine now?
The organic industry is a thirty five billion dollar per year dynamo growing at double digits, even through the great recession. Despite shrinking economies, banking woes and scandals, it continues to surge forward. I believe consumers want to trust and rely on something in their chaotic world. Food, being one of the primal necessities, is the place consumers are yearning to trust the most. Imagine if they were able to understand why organic is more trustworthy than natural?
According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, organic isn’t able to keep up with the growing demand (no pun intended). Supplies of some organic commodities are scarce, forcing many dairy, meat and cereal producers to import organic products from offshore. Organic soybean imports alone could reach one hundred million dollars this year! We need to grow more of our food here in the US, and organic needs the funding it deserves to grow the demand and the supply at the same time.
Let’s create that funding together as a united organic industry!
Congress and the USDA have all given the thumbs up on the possibility of creating this program. Now it’s time for the organic community to begin by sitting down and discussing options. How should this program be governed? Who should pay in? How should the resources be used?
The website UNITED FOR MORE ORGANIC allows everyone the opportunity to weigh in with ideas, preferences and concerns. At the end of the feedback period, all input will be coalesced, analyzed and published. I encourage everyone reading this to visit the website and provide input. You can also sign up for the newsletter to stay informed on ORPP comments and updates. There are a series of webinars planned to explain where we are now and how to provide feedback. The next ORPP webinar is scheduled for Thursday, August 1, from 2:00-3:00 PM EDT. Contact KMcLaughlin@ota.com to register and learn more.
We are the creators of a visionary industry and I believe it is from that same source of inspiration that we can create an ORPP that is unique and serves all stakeholders well.
I can hear the call of the ORPP. Like I said, it may not be the song of waterfowl, but it sounds pretty sweet to me. Let me know that you have weighed in.