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Organic Checkoff Tax

USDA Wants More Proposals

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) spent the last four years developing a proposal for an organic promotion, research and information order, finally submitting a proposal for the check-off program to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) on May 12, 2015.

But, AMS isn't satisfied that OTA has met the requirement to have the support of the organic community (now called “the commodity”) and less than a week later, they issued a request for supplemental or partial proposals; AMS staff "believes that it is in the best interests of the organic community to solicit a wide range of views before proceeding with the publication of this proposal." The request is at the USDA AMS site. Sam Jones-Ellard, AMS spokesperson, told Sustainable Food News that the request for additional check-off proposals was "unusual" but not without precedent. It appears that this request for alternative or partial proposals indicates that USDA is proceeding on a path similar to that used for the Mushroom Order, published in June 1992, and the Avocado industry in 2000.

NODPA and other groups will be submitting partial proposals to address basic issues of transparency, democratic decision making, and use of resources in the short timeline for proposals that USDA AMS has given. NODPA has also asked for an extension of the deadline for submitting proposals because of the burden of consulting with producers at the busiest time of the year. See bottom to view the request for extension.

The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) joined check-off opposition after they held a referendum among its members that showed "not a single vote was cast in favor" of OTA's check-off proposal. "The OSGATA membership has spoken loud and clear," said Maine certified-organic seed farmer Jim Gerritsen, president of OSGATA. "Organic farmers and seed growers resoundingly reject the OTA's organic check-off proposal and our membership believes it's important that organic farmers work together to defeat the industry's mandatory tax on our livelihoods."

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