Welcome new OTA members!

The single most effective way you can address the range of critical issues facing your organic business is by joining the Organic Trade Association. OTA has promoted and protected the organic business community for thirty years. We have the strategic know-how to effectively address issues, both large and small, that impact your bottom line. Welcome to the new OTA members who have joined us in 2016.

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Organic News and Trends

The booming U.S. organic industry posted new records in 2015, with total organic product sales hitting $43.3 billion, up a robust 11 percent from the previous year’s record level and far outstripping the overall food market’s growth rate of 3 percent, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2016 Organic Industry Survey.

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Showcasing U.S. organic at this year’s World’s fair

OTA was proud to take part in the World’s Fair in Milan, Italy, during October. The theme of this year’s international exposition was “Feeding the Planet. Energy for Life,” exploring the huge task of finding a balance between meeting the nutritional needs of the global population and respecting the planet.

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OTA develops strong network in Japan

OTA co-hosted an all organic BBQ at the U.S. Consular General Allen Greenberg’s residence in Kobe, Japan. A first of its kind, the luncheon brought together key industry players and thought leaders from Japan’s growing organic industry. Monique Marez, OTA’s Associate Director for International Trade, and Melody Meyer, a member of OTA Board of Directors, led an information session and discussion on U.S. trends, and ways to import more USDA certified products.

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United States and Switzerland sign equivalency arrangement

Swiss consumers purchase more organic products per capita than any other consumer population in the world. They are the fourth largest market for organic products in the world after the United States, Canada, and the European Union and responsible for 3 percent of global purchases of organic in 2014. Now, U.S. organic farmers have streamlined access to this active market through an organic equivalency arrangement.

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“Myth-Busting Month”campaign reaches 15 million consumers

Fact: You can eat organic on a budget. Fact: Organic agriculture can help feed the planet. Fact: There are proven health benefits of organic. These are three of the more than 30 research-backed facts that OTA and partners digitally disseminated each day in September as part of its highly successful “Myth-Busting Month” social media festival.

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Organic award winners: Inspired and inspiring

Organic Farmer of the Year Benny McLean of Uncle Matt’s Organic says it makes him feel good to see his 12 grandkids work in the soil and learn how healthy food is grown. Growing the Organic Industry recipient Tom Harding of Lehigh Valley Organic Growers says after 30 years advocating for organic, he still feels like he’s just beginning the trek for organic. And Rising Star winner Michael Berger of Elevation Burger says his commitment to advancing organic and selling healthy fast food to American consumers has never been stronger.

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Organic Roots are spreading in Washington

From the East Wing of the White House to the Halls of Congress, organic is spreading its roots in the nation’s capital. Today’s crop of organic influencers is making a difference in agricultural policy, federal legislation, international affairs, food and health guidelines, public research approaches, and environmental issues. The number of organic advocates in Washington has probably never been greater, including individuals with genuine down-to-earth roots in certified organic agriculture. In this edition, we are profiling a handful of these folks who are making their voices heard. These hard-working and committed individuals show how organic truly is seeding changes—in the food we eat, the way we think, and the future of our world.

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Member of the Year

Jeff Rakity of Natural Flavors/Elan received OTA’s 2015 Member of the Year Award at OTA’s Annual Meeting in September. This special recognition, driven by OTA staff and endorsed by OTA’s Board, was created to honor a truly engaged member—a dedicated volunteer, fearless leader and apt cheerleader for OTA while serving overall as an ambassador for OTA and the industry.

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Organic opportunities and challenges for the wool industry

Still a small portion of the organic fiber business in the United States, organic wool is starting to see some gains in the marketplace here. OTA member Jagger Brothers of Springvale, Maine, markets organic wool yarn certified to the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) which it spins from organic wool imported from South America. The yarn is organically dyed at the GOTS certified Saco River Dyehouse, also in Maine, and brought back to Jagger Brothers for distribution. It is then marketed as The Green Line from Jagger Spun, a division of Jagger Brothers, as hanks for hand knitting and as one-pound cones for machine knitters and weavers.

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Organic agriculture keeps farmworkers & their families safe

One of the most important ways that we can protect our farmworkers is by supporting organic agriculture. Because organic certified farming operations are prohibited from using most synthetic pesticides, organic farms ensure that farm workers, their families, and their communities are safe from the negative effects of toxic pesticide exposure.

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An organic researcher perspective on organic check-off funds

As organic researchers, we are very excited about the prospect of organic check-off funds going towards supporting research to help us address U.S. organic farmers’ most pressing needs to increase production of organic food, feed and fiber. For years, we have fought the federal government and our state universities for every organic research dollar. Traditionally, organic research has been woefully underfunded.

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Research successes in organic plant breeding

Over the past half century, most plant breeding programs, both public and private, have been developed in response to the needs of large-scale industrial agriculture with a focus on yield improvement, the ability to stand up to storage and transport, and appearance. However, not only do breeding programs for conventional crops often use techniques banned under organic standards, they also can result in the loss of traits critical for the success of crops managed without the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.

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Conferences focus on organic research

In February, the Organic Seed Alliance will hold the 8th Organic Seed Growers Conference for two days of presentations and networking focused on organic seed. Conference attendees receive hands-on instruction, results from cutting-edge research, updates on seed policy and advocacy efforts, and inspiring stories from the field. The theme will be “Cultivating Resilience,” a current assessment and road-map for building organic seed systems that are ecologically, socially, and economically resilient. The conference Feb. 4–6, 2016, will take place at Oregon State University, which will co-host with Washington State University and eOrganic.

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Organic Research: Innovations and investments key to sector’s bright outlook

Organic lettuce that can fight mildew and aphids, organic strawberry nursery stock with the potential to transform the organic berry sector, new varieties of organic food-grade barley able to be grown in the Pacific Northwest, an organic open-pollinated sweet corn whose seed can be saved for the following year, and educational grants and endowments to invest in organic’s future. These are just a few examples of organic research innovations that are shaping today’s organic industry and ensuring a solid and healthy future for tomorrow.

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Esperanza Threads: a place of hope and purpose

As its name implies, OTA member Esperanza Threads brings hope through the gift of sewing. In 2000, returning to Cleveland, Ohio, after working in Native American missions in Montana, Sister Mary Eileen Boyle contemplated what she would choose for the next step in her life’s calling. An Ursuline Sister of Cleveland—an order whose mission is to transform lives through contemplation, justice, and compassion, she wanted to start something that would transform lives while respecting the earth and follow a holistic philosophy.

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Perspectives on an Organic Check-Off

“I understood that the proposed check-off was controversial and decided to investigate. Largely I found that concerns stem from bad experiences with other agricultural commodity programs like beef, pork and eggs, that benefited large agribusiness and processors while American farmers were screwed over. But I found that the proposed organic check-off program has been designed with a lot of feedback from organic farmers in a sensible and fair fashion.”—David Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner’s

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Organic in 2030

In January, the Organic Trade Association’s Board of Directors adopted a long-term vision for the trade association to lead the organic sector into the year 2030. OTA’s 15-Year Vision Task Force was co-chaired by Melissa Hughes and Laura Batcha, with participants Melody Meyer, Perry Clutts, Leslie Zuck, and Marci Zaroff. OTA’s 15-Year vision adopted by the Board is bold, ambitious and far-reaching. It is a reflection of the dedication, integrity and creativity of the sector that OTA serves, and of OTA’s unwavering commitment to lead the organic sector to new unprecedented levels of achievement.

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When #Organic Goes Social

What does ‘organic’ really mean? Can I trust it? Why is it so expensive?” The conversation is happening on social media, whether you’re a part of it or not. Throughout the world, millions of consumers, businesses, influencers and policymakers are engaged across a variety of social networks—and all signs point to continued growth across channels in the coming years.

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An Organic Check-Off: It sounds good but what about...?

An organic check-off would be unlike any other check-off program in American agriculture. Nothing like it has ever been tried, so the idea has understandably raised some questions. OTA has talked to lots of organic stakeholders over the past three years, and has found there’s a core group of concerns that keep coming up. We’ve also found that most of these concerns are based on perceptions of older check-offs, and we’ve addressed these issues.

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Farmland LP creatively strategizes to meet organic demand

The challenge is clear and only intensifying with the rising demand for organic products: more organic farmers and more organic land are needed. At the same time, older farmers are selling farmland, fueling a farmland real estate market that continues to grow. For investors, this has averaged a return rate of 12 percent the last 20 years, according to the National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries.

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