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Letter to the Secretary of Agriculture

No Organic Checkoff Coalition

The No Organic Checkoff Coalition was organized specifically to SUPPORT the FAIR Act that exempts organic farmers from conventional checkoff programs and to OPPOSE the creation of a new federal organic checkoff program. Together this coalition represents 31 organizations and more than 6,000 organic farmers from the Western, Midwestern, and Eastern United States.

Dear Secretary Purdue,

We are writing this letter to you to express the lack of support that organically certified producers and businesses have for the Organic Research, Promotion, and Information Order (organic checkoff) under the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996 (the Act). Within the next few months the bond that was required from the Organic Trade Association (OTA) to fund the USDA staff time to process and develop this proposed new regulation from their proposal for an organic checkoff will end. We ask that you take this opportunity to determine that the proposed Order is not “in conformity with the terms, conditions, and requirements of this [the Act]” and not issue a final Order or proceed to a referendum.

To take the proposed Order to a referendum would do a disservice to the organic sector and organic consumers. It would divide rather than unite organic farmers and handlers, ignite a firestorm of adverse media coverage and injure the organic brand in the process, defeating the purpose of an organic checkoff in the first place. A mandatory federal organic checkoff is not the right fit for the organic sector. Since the beginning of the modern organic movement, organic farmers have been creative and innovative in creating solutions for the organic market. Together, organic farmers can come up with the solutions to address the needs of the growing organic market---solutions that don’t hurt the very farmers that built the movement and would support the growth of organic farmers and farming in the U.S.

Since 2012, organic farmer organizations and independent organic farmers have been working to stop the proposed organic checkoff. With very little resources to fight this proposed regulation, that will affect every certified organic farmer and processor in the US, the No Organic Checkoff Coalition has garnered a large volume of opposition to the proposal by making sure that farmers and their member organizations understand what is contained within the 150-page proposed Order.
On April 19 2017 the No Organic Checkoff Coalition submitted to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service:

A list of 1,888 signatories to a petition urging the agency to reject a proposal to create a new “research and promotion” program, a checkoff.
A letter opposing the checkoff signed by more than 60 organic organizations asking for the USDA to end the checkoff proposal.
Petitions from two coalition partners with a total of 19,592 signatures to stop the checkoff.
Unique letters from over 950 individuals to the USDA documenting why they oppose the checkoff.
Detailed comments on the Proposed Order
The coalition opposes the proposal to create a new federal organic checkoff program because:
The checkoff will serve as another tax on farmers, directly if they are subject to the Order or indirectly when processors pass the cost down.
The marketing language restrictions on USDA-administered checkoff programs mean the program could not promote the benefits of Organic which is marketed as a process-verified third party audited label, highlighting the difference between organic and other commodities.
Promoting organic sales without addressing other challenges facing organic will not increase organic acreage in the US, but instead will increase lower-priced organic imports.
The proposed regulation would create an unworkable, unfair and inefficient program open to abuse due to the complexities of a multi-commodity program with many different production practices and measurements of profitability.

We ask you not to issue a final Order or proceed to a referendum. We do not want this new regulation. We encourage the organic sector to explore other voluntary options that have the support of the majority of producers and handlers. We would welcome the opportunity to continue a discussion with you and AMS about possible ways to increase domestic organic production, stimulate organic research and increase the differentiation of organically certified product within the retail marketplace.

Thank you for your attention to this issue.

The No Organic Checkoff Coalition

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