The political winds are against us. We are in an era of stagnating and dwindling regulatory oversight by the current administration.
Organic seems to be floundering in its own juices.
Trump’s USDA withdrew the final animal welfare rule that consumers and legitimate producers all agreed upon for over decade.
The administration meddled with the NOSB’s work plan, withdrawing work on Aquaculture, Apiculture and Pet Food. There will be no regulations to advance organic in these areas in the near future.
They killed the idea of a check-off that would have raised much-needed funds to bolster our still adolescent industry.
This is indeed an unfriendly crew cutting and slashing rules and opportunities that organic wants.
The Organic Message is in Tatters
There is abject confusion about what organic really means. Consumers wonder how the Organic label is different than the plethora of labels and claims littering the aisles. With the emergence of Regenerative, Biodynamic and Real Organic, what’s a consumer to think?
Damning headlines say the industry is merely lying to consumers while fraudulent grain shipments barrel into our markets.
No wonder the public is confused.
Organic Agriculture and Climate Change
Climate change is arguably the most pressing issue facing our species at this moment in history. We’ve managed to ravage the skin of our topsoil with conventional agriculture, limiting the soil’s ability to behave as its done for a millennium: drawing carbon out of the atmosphere.
We already possess research that demonstrates the benefits of organic agriculture in combatting this issue. If all conventional farmers in the US switched to organic practices, we could sequester nearly half of the greenhouse gasses we emit!
We have got to learn to feed ourselves and combat climate change with healthy organic soils.
How do we tell that story and encourage more farmers to be stewards of the environment?
Too few organic farmers are doing the work that needs to be done—and done quickly!
Many barriers exist to becoming an organic farmer. One of them is a lack of expertise and assistance in the field. Organic farmers need the technical know-how to be successful.
It turns out the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) allows for organic technical specialists in every state. Right now, only two exist in the entire US because the position requires 50% matching funds from the industry.
One would think a flourishing $50B industry could have a specialist in every state!
Who’s going to pony up?
How can the private sector play a role in advancing Organic despite the lack of federal support?
I believe a voluntary “check-off” is the answer to many of the challenges facing organic today. If you are a brand that cares about the future of your bottom line and that of the planet, it’s time to get involved—give back—contribute.
The Organic Trade Association has partnered with Organic Voices to harness their compelling messaging campaign and resurrect the organic check-off initiative—they’ve already raised over $800K, and it’s growing.
The campaign funds will not only fuel a consistent message about what organic really means, but it will cover all of the areas we need help with—today.
A voluntary check-off will provide research dollars to help organic growers flourish and confirm the benefits of organic agriculture in fighting climate change.
Imagine technical specialists in every state working with transitioning and existing organic farmers. In partnership with the NRCS and regional farming organizations, it will fund organic extension agents across the country.
The program will provide technical assistance in the field, so growers have the resources to GRO. In fact, that’s the name of the Program! GRO means Grow Organic Opportunities!
Do you want to be part of the solution for organic?
Organic businesses, farmers and industry leaders are already working together on innovative solutions that will have key benefits for organic.
The momentum is here, and your participation will make a difference. If you care about the future of organic, please contribute to our collective effort.
Check it out and check in on the organic check off. It’s all we have to fund today’s challenges.
© 2018, Melody Meyer. All rights reserved.