AG POLICY ...

No Organic Checkoff Coalition

Submits petition urging the USDA to reject a proposal to create new checkoff

The No Organic Checkoff Coalition was organized specifically to SUPPORT the FAIR Act that exempts organic farmers from conventional checkoff programs and to OPPOSE the creation of a new federal organic checkoff program. Together this coalition represents 31 organizations and more than 6,000 organic farmers from the Western, Midwestern, and Eastern United States. (Tim Psych, Flickr/Creative Commons)

WASHINGTON — The No Organic Checkoff Coalition has submitted to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service a list of 1,888 signatories to a petition urging the agency to reject a proposal to create a new “research and promotion” program, also called a checkoff program.  The coalition also will submit a letter opposing the checkoff signed by more than 60 organic organizations asking for the USDA to end the checkoff proposal.

Two coalition partners submitted petitions with a total of 19,592 signatures to stop the checkoff.  Over 950 individuals have written unique individualized letters to the USDA documenting why they oppose the checkoff.

Since 2012, organic farmer organizations and independent organic farmers have been working to stop the proposed organic checkoff.  With very little resources to fight this regulation that will affect every certified organic farmer and processor in the U.S., the No Organic Checkoff has garnered quite a lot of opposition to the proposal by making sure that farmers and their member organizations understand what is contained within the 150-page proposed Order.

“The fact is that organic farmers do not want a mandatory federal organic checkoff program to solve the industry’s growing pains,” said Ed Maltby, executive director of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance.  “Since the beginning of the modern organic movement, organic farmers have been creative and innovative in creating solutions for the organic market. Organic farmers together can come up with the solutions to address the needs of the growing organic market—solutions that don’t hurt the very farmers that built the movement like this proposed checkoff program would, and would support the growth of organic farmers and farming in the U.S.”

The coalition opposes the proposal to create a new federal organic checkoff program because:

  • The checkoff will serve as another tax on farmers, both directly and indirectly when processors pass the cost down.
  • The marketing language restrictions on USDA-administered checkoff programs mean the program could not promote the benefits of Organic.
  • Existing checkoff programs have a history of using funds inappropriately, with poor representation of farmer priorities in granting of research dollars.
  • Promoting organic sales without addressing other challenges facing organic will not increase organic acreage in the US, but instead will increase lower-priced organic imports.
  • The proposal would create an unworkable program due to the complexities of lumping all organic products into a program that treats them as a single commodity.

“The No Organic Checkoff Coalition hopes that the USDA listens to the organic community and does not move this flawed proposal to the referendum phase,” said Brandon Hill, Secretary for theOrganic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) International Board of Directors.  “Clearly, there is not industry-wide support for an organic checkoff.  The organic community should come together to develop solutions that unite rather than divide its growing industry.”

—No Organic Checkoff Coalition

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