The demise of a mandatory organic research and promotion check-off program at the hands of the USDA came with great disappointment.
It also kindled a fiery commitment to the idea that something must be done.
Leading companies and individuals weren’t ready to give up the idea that collectively the organic industry could raise funds for research, education and promotion.
The OTA, in partnership with Organic Voices, along with over 70 organic brands and businesses, rolled out their plan for a voluntary “check-off-like” program at Natural Products Expo West.
This program aptly named “GRO Organic” stands for Generate Results and Opportunity for Organic.
While the group is making plans for what GRO looks like long term, they have collectively raised $1.5 million for the next two years with the intent of activating immediate programs that will advance organic food and farming in the US.
The funds will help new farmers transition to and stay organic. It will activate research projects that show organic practices can fight climate change.
OTA already has a prototype for a consumer marketing campaign that all organic companies can use to help reduce consumer confusion about organic.
The official consumer promotion initiative unveiled at Expo West very simply states, “Here’s a long list of chemicals you should never have to read… And if you buy organic, you’ll never have to.”
The campaign has already raised $1 million dedicated towards this quirky “don’t look” message that can be used in many mediums and especially on social media.
Check it out and let me know what you think:
If you are an organic brand who wants to get in on the fun, you can contribute to GRO right now to help develop and utilize the full messaging tool-kit.
Besides launching this national campaign to reduce consumer confusion, GRO Organic has three other specific areas of focus the first year.
First Year Focus on Consumer Research:Harnessing the expertise of health and wellness specialists at NMI, GRO Organic is conducting research that will provide insights on what consumers are hearing about organic and how it affects their buying habits. This research will be publicly available for all companies to use as they move forward with messaging.
Technical Assistance for Organic Farmers is a Must:This pilot initiative will train agricultural professionals working with organic and transitioning farmers. The Organic Agronomy Training Series (OATS) will initially operate in 9 states with the ultimate goal of connecting technical specialists with organic farmers in every state.
Making the Case for Soil Health and Climate Change:The Organic Center is already convening research on how organic agriculture can be part of the solution to soil health and climate change.
The immediate research projects for 2019 include the University of Maryland reviewing the science that evaluates organic methods for building soil health and investigating the impact of organic farming on carbon sequestration. Additionally, the University of California, Berkeley, will quantify how environmentally friendly practices can impact a farmer’s economic bottom line.
While these immediate programs to grow and protect organic are being implemented, the GRO Organic Core Committee is asking all stakeholders to weigh in on what the future should look like.
They want feedback on who and how participants should pay in, how the voluntary program should be governed, and how research priorities should be developed.
They want everyone’s BIG IDEAS on what would benefit organic the most!
To gain the best thinking from stakeholders on how to set up this industry-wide voluntary program, it’s critical for everyone to weigh in. They are asking everyone interested to provide detailed thoughts in writing on a series of key questions on funding, participation and governance.
The deadline to provide input on GRO Organic is April 30th,2019and you can do it right here.
Let’s do it… Even Educated Pistachios do it. Should the organic community have a pool of collective funds to drive growth?
Even in our midst, my friend and cohort, Rodger Wasson from Idea-Farming understands the meaning of a voluntary checkoff.
He told me that “There are 15 processors and over 800 growers involved, and they all support the voluntary check-off at 3.5 cents per pound. It’s about a billion-dollar industry, and they bring in $10-12 million per year. This program is especially important for the pistachio industry because they are planting trees that will be producing for the next 120 years.”
If the Pistachio growers represent a $1 billion industry and can raise those funds, think what organic can do as a $50-billion industry!
The immediate programs GRO Organic is implementing this year are working examples that can be expanded into even more ambitious initiatives for the future.
The future of organic is in our hands and collectively we can do this.
Our children will never have to read that long list of chemicals if we do this right.