OTA, ASU’s Merrigan to conduct organic workshops
The Organic Trade Association and the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University announced last week that they will launch a series of workshops “to take a no-holds-barred look at organic, and what has worked and not worked since the federal organic program began.”
The executive director of the Swette Center is Kathleen Merrigan, who was a key Senate aide when the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) was passed in 1990. Merrigan was the first agriculture deputy secretary in the Obama administration. The Swette Center is a unit of ASU’s Global Futures Laboratory and the School of Sustainability.
In a news release, OTA said, “It has been 30 years since the Organic Foods Production Act was signed into law, and organic has made significant advancements during that time.”
“Organic is the fastest-growing segment of U.S. agriculture, growing to a $62 billion market. Consumers are eating more organic food and using more organic products than ever before, and the accessibility and affordability of organic are increasingly within the reach of all. But there is still much to be done to ensure the continued success of the organic movement and truly achieve the gold standard in food systems.”
The Organic Farmers Association is co-hosting one of the workshops, which will be geared exclusively for organic farmers and farmer organizations.
The organic industry has been upset by delays at the Agriculture Department in finalizing an origin-of-livestock rule and plagued by conflicts over whether food certified as organic should be produced in confined animal feeding operations and issues about imports.
The announcement by Danone that it will stop buying milk from organic dairy farms in New England next year has created a crisis in the industry.
“The unique private-public partnership that is the backbone of organic has generally served the sector well, but over the past several years the federal regulatory apparatus has stifled innovation and stalled continuous improvement within the industry,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of the Organic Trade Association.
“Our partnership with ASU has been created to gather ideas from all corners on ways to reverse this trend and to make organic the best it can be.”
“It was a diversity of minds that created the novel scheme that became the 1990 OFPA,” said Merrigan.
“It is time to re-engage that original coalition of organic, consumer, and environmental organizations, and bolster it with many new stakeholders. We need everyone seated at the table to successfully plot the next 30 years of organic. Our partnership with the Organic Trade Association will enable us to solicit input on the future of organic from all communities, and our work will be stronger for it.”
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