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Organic Trade Association (OTA) Published Version number 6 of their Organic Check-off proposal and some answers to NODPA Questions

An organic check-off will affect all organic certificate holders, from producers selling in farmers market to the board room of conglomerates. As such, all organic certificate holders should have a vote on establishing an organic check-off. This can be done by a proposal to the USDA AMS that assesses all organic certificate holders. IF a check-off is set up, the governing Board of the check-off will be appointed by the Secretary and will then set the level of assessments and opt-in/opt-out criteria as mandated by the Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information Act of 1996 (Generic Act).
The current proposal by OTA will restrict voting rights to establish a check off to self-determined (especially in mixed operations that market directly to wholesalers or through several handlers) economic criteria and those that choose to ask for a certificate to OPT-IN to the check-off. There will be no central list to verify and validate who qualifies to meet these criteria. All those that want to vote would have to apply for a ballot and receive it by mail. All these criteria and processes will restrict who votes in a referendum and, given the economic demographics of organic certificate holders there may well be less than 30% of certificate holders eligible to vote, you would only need 51% of those that vote out of the 30% to establish an organic check-off. This may mean that a tiny percentage of certificate holders will establish an organic check-off.
Other points from Version 6 of the OTA proposal:

  • Assessed entities: No $100 dollar annual membership. Under the new proposal all certificate holders (except retailers) are covered by the order/check-off. There are no exemptions from the order/check-off. There are two types of assessments; one is voluntary and one is mandatory. For those under $250,000 gross organic revenue the assessment will be voluntary and under the OTA proposal they will have to opt in prior to any referendum on setting up a check-off in order to vote. OTA defines gross organic revenue as “total gross sales in organic products.” Organic producers with over $250,000 in self-declared gross organic revenue are mandatorily assessed and shall have the option of paying one-tenth of one percent of either (A) net organic sales or (B) producer net profit. Net profit and net organic sales will be self-declared and paid directly to the Board by the individual producer. Approximately 70% of certificate holders are under the $250,000 threshold and will have to opt in to vote on setting up an organic check-off.
  • Opt-in: Those organic producers who choose to opt in would need to do it on an annual basis.
  • Definitions: OTA’s definition of net organic sales: means total gross sales in organic products minus the cost of certified organic ingredients, feed, and inputs used in the production of organic products.  And producer net profit: means organic producer income received from organic products less the associated production expenses excluding fixed non-cash costs. So many questions on what these may mean - how these can be verified, and by whom - this isn't currently in certifier documents, nor income tax, nor FSA reporting.  Will organic dairy farmers who grow their own feed be allowed to deduct full feed cost (including the rent of land – cash cost), as if they had purchased all of it?
  • Exemption from conventional check-off $: The majority of organic dairy/corn/soybean producers would have to opt in to the organic check-off on an annual basis to avoid paying into the conventional check-off at the higher rates. Once the organic check-off is set up there will be no exemptions from paying into the conventional check-off program.
  • Retailers will not be assessed.
  • Spending Check-off Taxes: With the change in producer assessments to a net farm income model, the current projection is closer to $30- 35 million per year in total income to the check-off program instead of the $40 million previously projected at the outset. IF $30 million is raised, $4.5 million will go to the Board to administer the program and pay salaries; $4 million will go to administer the grants using check-off monies that the Board will recommend; an undetermined amount of the $21.5 million that’s left will be paid to USDA AMS to run the program and collect assessments (there is no cap on this). This will leave ¼ of what is left to go to research, approximately a maximum of $5 million.
  • Imports will be assessed at the same rate as all other organic operations. For imports, for which there is a Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) code, the assessment will be paid by the organic importer to Customs at the time of entry into the United States, and shall be remitted by Customs to the Board. For imports, for which there is not a HTS code (the majority of organic imports), the assessment will be self-declared and voluntarily paid directly to the Board.
  • Check-off Board: OTA proposes that the governing Board will be 17. One Board seat will be reserved for those producers that fall under the $250,000 in gross organic revenue exemption level (approximately 70% of producers). Seven Board seats will be reserved for producers with over $250,000 in gross organic revenue from different regions (2 from California), by definition large operations. The OTA defines the northeast which has one Board member as the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. There will be five seats for organic handlers; two for organic product processors; one for organic importers and one at-large member. The producer members will be nominated by each region in a structure that will be expensive to administer and difficult to ensure accountability and transparency. The assumption is that that process the regions use for nominating Board members for appointment by the Secretary will either be paid for by the Board from check-off dollars or be part of the work that USDA AMS will be paid for from check-off dollars.
  • When will there be a proposal: It is OTA’s goal to submit a proposal to USDA within the first half of 2015, although we hear from a source at USDA that they have received a draft proposal for consideration.

For the full draft of OTA’s reply to NODPA, please go to:

OTA's Reply

Free Speech and Prohibited Messaging

The Limits to Promotional Activities for Federal Check-off Money

The suggestion that organic check-off funds will be used to promote organics is one of the biggest arguments the Organic Trade Association (OTA) is using in their attempt to convince the organic community that their check-off proposal is a good idea.

However, as experience with other commodity check-off programs has demonstrated, there are severe restrictions and requirements attached to any promotional messages.  These include prohibitions on:

  1. Promotions that disparage another agricultural commodity.
  2. Any action that would be a conflict of interest.
  3. Promotions which are not generic.
  4. Using funds to influence governmental action or policy – NOSB or NOP.

For more on this please download the attached article:

Checkoff Restrictions Document

National Organic Coalition's
Pre-NOSB Meeting

Sunday, April 26, 2015  - 9:30 am to 5:30 pm
San Diego Marriott La Jolla,  4240 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037

Thank you to the co-hosts for this meeting, CCOF and Center for Food Safety!

Meeting Goal:
To provide a forum for productive engagement around critical issues for diverse stakeholders in the organic community


9:30 – 10:45 Introductions, Ground Rules, & NOC history
10:45 – 11:45 DC Update on Organic Policy - with Steve Etka, Policy Director, National Organic Coalition
11:45 – 12:00 International Update - with Peggy Miars, Executive Director, Organic Materials Review Institute and member of IFOAM World Board 
12:00 – 1:30       LUNCH   (on your own)
1:30 – 2:00 GMO Contamination Prevention -   with Zea Sonnabend, Policy Specialist, CCOF and NOSB member
2:00 – 3:30 Organic Poultry Standards
3:30 – 4:45 Conversation with Mile McEvoy, Deputy Administrator, National Organic Program
4:45 – 5:15 NOP Biodiversity Guidance -   with Jo Ann Baumgartner, Director, Wild Farm Alliance
5:15 – 5:30 Closing

An Interview with 2014 Acres U.S.A. Eco-Agriculture Achievement Award Winner

Dr. Richard “Doc” Holliday

by Susan Beal

Waukon, Iowa veterinarian, Richard “Doc” Holliday, was presented with the Acres U.S.A. Eco-agriculture Achievement Award at the 2014 Acres U.S.A. Conference and Trade Show held in Columbus, Ohio in early December 2014.  This award, presented yearly to an exceptional leader in the eco-agricultural community, honors “Doc” Holliday for his over fifty years of work in the alternative veterinary and holistic agricultural communities.

A 1959 graduate of the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, Doc studied relationships between animal health and soil fertility under William Albrecht before entering into private mixed practice in northwest Missouri.  It was during this time that Doc Holliday began to explore the concepts of feeding self-regulated individual minerals to animals. Read the interview at:

Holliday Interview

Farmers Voice:
Is it time for an Organic Farmers Alliance organization?

by Steve Gilman, Interstate NOFA Policy Coordinator
In the arcane world of farm and food policy where self-serving initiatives are put through by special interests in far-off seats of power – who speaks for organic farmers and how are those voices heard?

Although the idea of an organic farmers association has been kicking around since organics’ beginnings in the 1990’s some recent issues have brought a new organizing effort to the forefront starting with a number of nationwide meetings, conference calls and a survey to explore the question. Read the rest of Steve’ article at:

Farmers Voice

Author Steve Gilman

Nodpa E-News
April 8, 2015

Recent Odairy Discussions – March 2015

by Liz Bawden, NODPA President
“A Jersey cross heifer calf was born small and relatively weak.  The farmer gave 1cc of Selenium with her first colostrum. The next day she spiked a fever, showed runny eyes and was not too interested in eating.  She was also licking the concrete wall.  Suggestions from the group included giving homeopathic Aconite for sudden symptoms, 1cc of Immunoboost along with some aloe, 2 to 3 cc per day of garlic and/or Echinacea tinctures and Vitamins C and D to boost her immune system, the intranasal vaccine Inforce 3 for the viral pneumonia, and Bovi-sera or Multi -serum for increased antibody protection.  It was also suggested to offer some loose Redmond salt since she appeared to be searching for minerals.  Belladonna was suggested to bring the fever down.”

To read a summary of Odairy activities, please go to Liz Bawden, Organic Dairy Farmer and NODPA President’s article:

Recent discussions

Join Odairy

The ODairy email list serve hosts robust discussions on many different issues, some practical, some on policy, some on politics and some just exchanging news on the organic community. ODairy is blessed by having so many committed veterinarians experienced in organic production who take an active part in the discussions on the list serve. There is no one way to solve a health problem in organic production.  Also, Odairy is a great place to advertise animals for sale and organic feed that is available.

To join the active and informative email list serve clicking here.

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