After the USDA’s withdrawal of the checkoff program for the nation’s certified organic label, several key groups and figureheads in the organic movement say they’re moving forward with their own plans to promote the burgeoning industry.
The checkoff program was aimed at promoting organic products and farming methods in campaigns similar to other checkoff programs like the dairy industry’s pervasive “Got Milk” or “Pork: The Other White Meat.”
Industry members worked with the USDA for five years to develop the program so that it accurately reflected the industry, the Organic Trade Association says USDA pulled the plug on the program “without notification.”
The agency claims it made the decision to cancel the checkoff program “based on uncertain industry support for and outstanding substantive issues with the proposed program.” It pointed to issues that could come at the expense of some farmers in promoting the National Organic Program, having a “disproportionate impact on high value commodities,” notes Food Navigator, particularly on those imported as opposed to those grown by U.S.-based farmers, the target recipient of the program’s benefit.
The move came also as the agency relaxed regulations aimed at protecting farm animals raised under organic criteria.
At the recent Organic Trade Association conference in Washington D.C., Gary Hirshberg, founder of Stonyfield Yogurt addressed the issue: “the last couple of years we have all been building towards the organic checkoff, which obviously was our unified way of creating a rising tide that would lift all boats and address many of the issues that we face as an industry, including a need for research to back our claims and communications, and promote organic writ large.
“But now we are in a new era, and frankly we are going to have to do it ourselves,” he said.
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