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US: OTA helps advance legislation to boost global organic trade oversight

The Organic Trade Association on Thursday applauded Representative John Faso (R-NY) for introducing the Organic Farmer and Consumer Protection Act, which would make significant strides to improve the oversight of global organic trade, create a level playing field for American organic farmers, and establish a better system to ensure the integrity of organic.

The trade association also extended its sincere thanks to the bipartisan co-sponsors of the bill: Reps. Rodney Davis, Chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture (R-IL), Michelle Lujan Grisham, Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture (D-NM), Glenn Grothman (R-WI), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), and Darren Soto (D-FL).

“Protecting the integrity of organic is critical for the advancement of organic, and we applaud Congressman Faso for introducing this important bill, and all of the co-sponsors for supporting it. Our farmers have to have a level playing field, and organic consumers have to be able to trust that they are getting what they pay for when they buy organic,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association.

The Organic Trade Association continues to engage on behalf of the organic industry through relationship-building with Members of Congress and build bipartisan support for the industry. Its efforts to educate and advocate have resulted in champions on the Hill who understand the important role of organic in the greater agricultural economy, and the need to ensure a tough global oversight system. This critical bill is an important part of a multi-pronged approach that includes action from the public sector in addition to the private sector work already underway at the trade association.

“We’re operating in a growing global market. It is essential that we modernize and get up to speed to prevent organic fraud and to ensure that every stakeholder in the organic chain is playing by the rules. This bill takes important steps towards making that happen,” said Batcha.

The Organic Farmer and Consumer Protection Act provides support and necessary funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP) to keep pace with industry growth and to carry out compliance and enforcement actions in the U.S. and abroad. It strengthens the emphasis on the NOP’s authority and capacity to conduct investigations to keep organic markets strong; it invests in technology and access to data to improve tracking of international organic trade; it helps provide the necessary information to ensure a transparent marketplace.

Specifically, the legislation does the following to modernize the global oversight system:
  • Authorizes funding for the National Organic Program to keep pace with organic industry growth;
  • Provides one-time funding for technology systems to modernize and improve international trade tracking systems and data collection;
  • Improves effective oversight, robust investigations, and enforcement across the entire supply chain.
  • Directs coordination and provides access to available cross-border documentation systems administered across other federal agencies and departments;
  • Requires USDA to close regulatory loopholes by mandating that uncertified entities, such as ports, brokers, importers and online auctions, become certified;
  • Requires USDA’s National Organic Program to issue an annual compliance report to Congress, which would include domestic and overseas investigations and actions taken.
A top priority for the Farm Bill
A stronger program to increase the transparency and tracking of international trade was given as a top priority for the next Farm Bill in a survey of more than 500 organic stakeholders conducted by the Organic Trade Association last year.

“The Farm Bill must include resource support for the USDA’s National Organic Program to keep pace with growth in the industry, set uniform standards and carry out compliance and enforcement actions along the entire supply chain - domestically and internationally. Accountability to the consumer should include real consequences for products found to be in violation of the organic standards,” said Ken Dallmier, President/COO, Clarkson Grain of Cerro Gordo, Illinois.

A recent report from USDA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) revealed areas that need to be improved in the oversight of international organic trade and the enforcement of organic standards for imported organic products. In addition to the legislative changes in the next Farm Bill that the Organic Trade Association has been pursuing to give the National Organic Program the tools it needs to prevent fraud, the association has also recognized the key role that industry plays in protecting organic integrity. The association’s Global Organic Supply Chain Integrity Task Force is developing a best practices guide that will help set a standard industry practice and in turn help the organic sector prevent the occurrence of organic fraud.

“As an organic farmer, integrity in organics is fundamentally important to my livelihood – people buy organic because it means something and they trust it. Any fraud in organics cannot be tolerated, whether domestic or international,” said Organic Valley member organic dairy farmer Shirley Hudyncia of Fort Plain, New York. “The Organic Farmer and Consumer Protection Act gives USDA more tools to demand accountability and execute enforcement. Organic agriculture is an economic engine for rural America. It has made a difference for my family and for my community, but we all must remain vigilant in protecting the integrity that organic signifies in the marketplace.”

For more information:
Organic Trade Association
444 N. Capitol St. NW, Suite 445A
Washington D.C. 20001
T: 202-403-8520
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