The Organic Report, Summer 2014
EN D PIECE O r ga n i c n e e d s t he a m m o o f a c h e c k-o f f p ro g r a m interests of some of the growers who produced those commodities. Many American cattle producers see have always been a skeptic of that the “Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner” check-off programs. For those campaign doesn’t encourage consumers who are unfamiliar with the term, to look for American-raised beef. check-off is a legal provision that allows Organic dairy farmers are frustrated that growers of a specific commodity to the major dairy commodity groups tied petition the U.S. Department of into their check-off program actively Agriculture (USDA) to establish a fought the labeling of milk products producer-funded program for product produced from animals that receive promotion and research. If USDA deems synthetic bovine growth hormones the petition worthy, the concept is put (BGH). up to a vote of all growers of that So, I have watched with interest as commodity. And, if adopted, the growers the Organic Trade Association are then required to pay (check-off) a successfully lobbied portion of each unit Congress to include of production into in the new farm bill a If we want organic the fund, which is provision that would then administered by to thrive and grow, give the organic a board appointed by industry the USDA. it’s time to fight. opportunity to vote “Beef, It’s What’s on establishing an Not among ourselves, for Dinner…” funded organic research and by the beef check-off. mind you, but in the promotion check-off The Other White program. real marketplace Meat, and “Got I just want to say Milk?…” pork and where the hearts that based on the dairy check-off funds experience of the as well. and minds of today’s already established My concern with shoppers reside. check-off programs, these programs isn’t we ought to do it. based on their Some may say my advertising and view is nothing more promotion than a crass, “If you can’t beat ’em, join campaigns, but rather that they seem to ’ e m” rationalization. Perhaps so. But let’s be a backdoor way of funneling money just look at the realities today. to the commodity organizations that go According to USDA’s Economic to Capitol Hill and lobby against the By Dave Carter I Research Service, 0.8 percent of the nation’s cropland and 0.5 percent of the rangeland and pastures are now certified organic. Meanwhile, growing numbers of consumers are drifting away from the organic label because they don’t understand the differences between organic, Non-GMO, Fair Trade, and other labels in the marketplace. If we want organic to thrive and grow, it’s time to fight. Not among ourselves, mind you, but in the real marketplace where the hearts and minds of today’s shoppers reside. Organic producers—large and small—are working hard to make viable, tangible changes in the agricultural system, and the food marketplace. That work won’t pay off unless we can get our message in front of a larger segment of the American public. We’ve won some important battles over the past few years. Let’s not lose the war. // Dave Carter is executive director of the National Bison Association, and also the principal of OTA member company Crystal Springs Consulting Inc., which works to connect organic producers with the marketplace. A long-time advocate of organic agriculture, he is a former chair of USDA’s National Organic Standards Board. This blog was originally published on newhope360.com. Organic Report • Summer 2014 43
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