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NODPA E-NEWSLETTER | June 10, 2014

The USDA Organic Check-Off

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is continuing its self-styled ‘discussion’ of establishing a federally mandated, USDA administered, Organic Check-off. In looking at different definitions of discussion they generally follow this idea ‘the action or process of talking about something, typically in order to reach a decision or to exchange ideas.’

The one-sided propaganda campaign now being waged by OTA, which includes a mass mailing of brochures and robo-calls to individual producers, is not a discussion at all. It presents one side of a campaign to establish a USDA Organic Check-off program without asking the basic question of whether we want or need a federal government program to promote the organic label and assist with funding of organic research. This initiative was decided solely by the OTA Board, advised by Washington DC based lobbyists. With the authorization of the Farm Bill, OTA now has the choice of following the USDA process of establishing an organic check-off program under the administrative guidance of USDA AMS. While there are several times within that process when those that will be assessed have an opportunity to voice their opinions, it will be a protracted procedure that will last over 2-3 years and will require a well-financed and politically connected opposition in the face of OTA’s existing campaign. If the process for advancing an application for a check-off program continues under its present management by a trade organization using emotive language and a well-financed promotion program, it will divide the organic community. This will be counter-productive at a time when the community needs to be united in the face of many marketplace and USDA threats to undermine both the integrity and uniqueness of organic certification.

With this Farm Bill, organic producers and small businesses have the opportunity to opt out completely from paying into any organic check-off program which meant that farmers and ranchers can decide for themselves what to do with their money. If OTA is successful in establishing a USDA organic check-off organic program producers will lose that opportunity to opt out and be forced to pay into either a conventional or organic check-off program, something they may have voted against. There are many half-truths and sound bites now being used by OTA to describe the benefits of a USDA Organic Check-off program that are misleading at best.

There was never a community wide discussion of whether we needed an organic check-off or could be better served with other ways to promote organic production and research. Now is the time for a pause in the propaganda and hard sell and the launch of a community wide discussion of how to promote organic production and sales. We all want to promote organic and provide more money for organic on-farm research. When you get your robo call just reply that you are not in favor of any check-off and ask that they make a note of that on their call record.

When asked about what to do with check-off monies your reply could be ‘give the producers back their money and trust them to use it in ways that will benefit organic.’ Farmers and ranchers have always led organic research with their on-farm production practices and their lifestyles are the greatest promotion of the benefits of organic.

Unfortunately the process of establishing a USDA Organic Check-off will be all about numbers and getting out the vote against a heavily financed campaign (sound familiar to our deadlocked federal system of democracy?). NODPA has established an online petition to start to accumulate the numbers to oppose a move to establish a USDA Organic Check-off. Please consider signing on to the petition if you have not done so already:  

For more information on the USDA Organic Check-Off please go to:

Organic Dairy Production
with the End in Mind

Arden J. Nelson, DVM, and Diplomate, ABVP-Dairy has been a dairy cattle veterinary nutrition consultant for over 34 years, and, not surprisingly, believes that “Nutrition is Everything to Dairy Cows”. Nutrition is one of the largest expense on the farm as are veterinary costs and Arden rightly believes that by managing the one (nutrition) organic dairy farmers will control diseases, prevent premature culling and promote a healthy immune systems. Well balanced nutrition will directly impact the dairy producers’ bottom line and not unexpectedly affect the composition of the milk that consumers drink. For more on how what we eat now will affect the future genes of our grandchildren and find out what ‘Epigenetics’ is please go to:

Crossbreeding with Norwegian Reds

The advantages of crossbreeding have long been evident and many organic producers have developed their own preferences for cross bred animals that will suit their system.  The aim of any breeding program is to improve production, health and fertility traits that benefit the goals of the individual family farm. While there are many choices out there the Norwegian Reds are one that may be most suited to organic production being moderate in size with calves that are hardy and fast growing and clearly adapted to grazing systems. The Norwegian Reds draw on the genetics of the Ayrshire breed, one of my favorites from many years milking then in England and Wales (United Kingdom). For more on the breed and their characteristics please go to:


NODPA Field Days Update
2014 NODPA Field Days, Stonewall Farm, Keene, NH
September 25 & 26, 2014

Organic Dairy: Getting Down to Business

The 14th Annual NODPA Field Days return to New Hampshire on September 25th and 26th this year, and promise to be filled with unique experiences and brimming with new and useful information that is essential for running a successful organic dairy business. We will be at Stonewall Farm in Keene, NH and since we are at an educational, working dairy farm, Veterinarians Hubert Karremann and Cindy Lankenau will be offering a hands-on workshop on Alternative Cow Care—Chiropractic, Acupressure, Acupuncture and more, using the farm’s cows. They will also answer your questions during our very popular Odairy Live: Ask the Vets Q & A session.

And other workshop topics include: selling more than milk from your farm, without changing production practices or making large scale capital investments; and trends and opportunities for grass based dairies in the wholesale organic milk market. Our speaker list, so far, includes Peter Miller, Organic Valley, Joe Miller, Trickling Springs Creamery, Kyle Thygesen, Stonyfield Farm, Josh Cline, Stonewall Farm, , Kathy Ruhf, Land for Good, Margaret Christie, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, Max Winter, Brattleboro Food Cooperative, Liz Bawden, NODPA President and heifer hay and bedding hay producer, Black River Produce representative (invited), and a variety of organic dairy producers who will share their unique perspectives and experiences. Click here to view the whole program, and learn about trade show and sponsorship opportunities. See you in September!


-- Ed Maltby, NODPA Executive Director  


SAVE THE DATE: NODPA 2014 Field Days

The 14th Annual NODPA Field Days will be on Thursday and Friday September 25 & 26, 2014 at Stonewall Farm, in Keene, New Hampshire. Stonewall Farm is centrally located in Southwest New Hampshire, not far from Brattleboro, VT and Keene, NH. The farm is an educational farm that has an organic dairy, micro-milk processing facility, on-site hydroponic barley fodder operation, cheese and yogurt making capacity, farm store, CSA, and educational programing, and they are experimenting with growing canola for biodiesel as well as creating a small grains cooperative where they share combine harvesting equipment.

For more details and to learn about tradeshow and sponsorship opportunities, click here.

ODairy Discussions

ODairy is fortunate to have some excellent veterinarians who contribute their knowledge on the many varied questions that producers have in their day to day dealings with the health of their animals. The willingness of these busy professionals to devote time to assisting producers who have to work within the confines of organic certification in solving individual and herd health problems is an inspiration to us all and shows that organic production has a strong culture of being willing to share knowledge. Their advice combined with producer practices that have shown success makes for a very rich knowledge resource. Liz Bawden always presents an excellent bimonthly summary of what has been moving through the ODairy list serve in every issue of the NODPA News and on the NODPA website. To read this month’s ODairy summary please go to:


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