Organic Trade Association Teams Up With Arizona State University to Discuss Future of Organic; Laura Batcha, Kathleen Merrigan, and Kate Mendenhall Explain
WASHINGTON, DC - As the organic sector has grown into a $62 billion one, the Organic Trade Association and the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University (ASU) have formed a new partnership to look ahead to the future of organic. In joining forces, the pair will launch a series of workshops that bring together a unique group of stakeholders to take a no-holds-barred look at the segment and what has and has not worked since the federal organic program began.
“The unique private-public partnership that is the backbone of organic has generally served the sector well, but over the past several years the federal regulatory apparatus has stifled innovation and stalled continuous improvement within the industry,” said Laura Batcha, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “Our partnership with ASU has been created to gather ideas from all corners on ways to reverse this trend and to make organic the best it can be.”
The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) was signed into law 30 years ago, and since then the organic sector has made significant advancements, becoming one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture, according to a press release. Consumers are increasingly reaching for more organic food and using more organic products, likewise the accessibility and affordability of organic is becoming in reach for a larger demographic of shoppers as well.
With all of that being said, OTA and ASU see much that needs to be done to ensure the continued success of organic and to achieve the gold standard in food systems. Therefore, the workshops will look at the changing needs of organic, explore ways to improve organic, and discuss how to build upon organic’s successes.
“It was a diversity of minds that created the novel scheme that became the 1990 OFPA. It is time to reengage that original coalition of organic, consumer, and environmental organizations, and bolster it with many new stakeholders,” said Kathleen Merrigan, Executive Director of the ASU Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems, a unit of ASU’s Global Futures Laboratory and the School of Sustainability. “We need everyone seated at the table to successfully plot the next 30 years of organic. Our partnership with the Organic Trade Association will enable us to solicit input on the future of organic from all communities, and our work will be stronger for it.”
As part of the workshop series, the Organic Farmers Association is co-hosting one of the sessions with the Organic Trade Association, which will be exclusively for farmers and farming organizations. The goal of the workshop will be to get extensive farmer input and help pave the way for farmers to help shape the next farm bill priorities and the future of organic.
“Farmers were critical in creating the U.S. organic market and label, and they must be an active part of determining the future of organic. Organic Farmers Association is excited to partner with the Organic Trade Association in co-hosting a national conversation with organic farmers on these topics,” added Kate Mendenhall, Executive Director of Organic Farmers Association.
These new workshops encourage open discussions on organic, with participants being invited to share their most radical and innovative ideas. Outcomes of the events will culminate in a release of a report outlining tangible improvements to the law and regulatory process within USDA. They will also help shape strategies on how to update the Organic Foods Production Act in the next farm bill. Congress has already kicked off the conversation by introducing the bipartisan Continuous Improvement and Accountability in Organic Standards Act, the first major assessment of USDA’s National Organic Program since the organic standards came into effect.
Workshop dates include:
- 27, 1-5 p.m. EST, virtual, co-hosted by the Accredited Certifiers Association *for certifiers only
- 10, 1-5 p.m. EST, virtual
- 13, 1-5 p.m. EST, virtual, co-hosted by the Organic Farmers Association and the Organic Trade Association's Farmers Advisory Council *for farmers and farming organizations only
- 15, 10-3 p.m. EST, in-person, Washington, DC, *for coalition partners and national stakeholders
For more information on the workshops and to read the association’s release in its entirety, click here.
Space for the events is limited, so make sure to register.
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