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Obama Administration Approves Key Organic Regulations Days Before Departure

Organic Check-Off, Animal Welfare and Transitional Organic regulations get through. Now, we face the disastrous prospect of Scott Pruitt leading the EPA.

Hello Friends,

There is a tremendous amount of last-minute and very important news, all due to a changing administration. Today’s email will be longer than normal, as there is much to discuss.

1) I got word last week about an Organic Check-Off program, and it was officially announced this morning by the USDA.

Other industries have used a check-off program in the past, such as milk, beef, and pork, primarily to conduct national advertising and branding campaigns.

For organic, this is new.

An Organic Check-Off program will take 1/10th of 1% of Producer Net Profit (PNP) from each organic company. This PNP is income received from organic products less the associated production expenses (such as labor, feed, and fuel) excluding fixed non-cash costs. For example, businesses with a PNP of $100,000 will pay a yearly fee of $100.

For companies or farms with less than $250,000 in yearly sales, participation will be voluntary, not mandatory.

75% of the money raised will go towards organic research, and 25% of the money raised will go towards promotion. The committee who will disburse the money will be selected by the USDA and will be made up of 17 organic handlers and producers.

As with almost anything in organic, there are groups for the Organic Check-Off and those that are against it.

The Organic Trade Association and hundreds of others are for the Organic Check-Off.

Main Points:

– Small producers won’t be forced into the program.
– The organic industry needs a national ad campaign and more research dollars.
– Program can be terminated every 7 years if it isn’t working.

Visit the GROorganic website to learn more.

Organic Consumers Association, The Cornucopia Institute, OSGATA, and other farmer and consumer groups are against the Organic Check-Off.

Main Points:

– Check-off programs in the past have been systematically mismanaged, and this one is just another tax on farmers.
– There are restrictions on the language and messaging that can be used in the ad campaigns.

Visit the No Organic Check-Off website to learn more.

For the next 60 days, the USDA is seeking comments on the Organic Check-Off program, and instructions on how to leave a comment can be found on the USDA’s website by clicking HERE.

MY QUICK TAKE: In theory, I am in favor of a check-off. It is ridiculous that organic, a $43 billion industry in the U.S., does not have a national advertising/branding campaign. Furthermore, we definitely need more research dollars going towards organic.

Will there be mismanagement of the funds and will the program benefit Big Organic more than small, family farmers?


However, small operations are exempt from mandatory participation, and I believe that whatever negatives arise from the program will be outweighed by the benefits of a national ad campaign for organic.

2) A new Transitional Organic program was introduced by the USDA, which will harmonize all of the other programs run by organic certifiers.

I think this is an excellent development, and I go into it in much more detail HERE.

If you are a retailer or a manufacturer with products that have 3 or fewer ingredients, this is something that you definitely should consider. Why?

– By working directly with a farmer who is transitioning to organic, you can build your future supply chain.
– You can offer your customers Transitional Organic products at slightly lower prices.
– Customers will appreciate the fact that you are helping farmers make the switch to organic.

As I explain in my post, I do not believe that this Transitional Organic program will negatively impact certified organic in any way. It will help grow organic farmland, which we absolutely need in the U.S.

3) The White House has finally approved organic animal welfare standards. See the story below for details.

4) Tomorrow in Washington, D.C., hearings are being held for Scott Pruitt, the nominee to lead the EPA.

Among many, many other disastrous things (see the NYT story about him), he protects factory farms and is opposed to stringent regulations on pesticides.

Please sign The Center for Food Safety petition HERE and the Environmental Working Group petition HERE, urging the Senate to reject this nominee.

Have a great week!

Max Goldberg, Founder

This Week's News Items

Weekly News Summaries

First Course
The Hill

Organic Animal Welfare Standards Get Approval from The White House

By Lydia Wheeler

After many months of delays, The White House Office of Management and Budget has signed off on the proposed organic animal welfare standards. While far from perfect, they are certainly an improvement over existing rules. Now, the standards must be published by the USDA in the Federal Register before January 20th in order to go into effect.

The New York Times

Gene-Edited Foods, the Next Generation of GMOs, are Coming Fast

By Kenneth Chang

Gene-editing technology is now being used on food, and regulatory oversight and mandatory safety studies are practically non-existent, not to mention a lack of labeling. The only good news is that this technology has been banned in organic.

Second Course
Food Business News

Moringa Start-Up Kuli Kuli Closes $4.25M Investment Round Led by Kellogg

By Monica Watrous

Kuli Kuli, which sells organic moringa powder, drinks and bars, just completed a $4.25M Series A led by eighteen94 captial, the VC arm of Kellogg. Congrats to my friend and CEO/Founder Lisa Curtis on this financing.

Bangor Daily News

A College in Maine has its Athletes Wear 100% Recycled, Organic Uniforms

Martime College in Maine is taking organic clothing to the next level, by having its athletes wear organic uniforms. Maybe this will inspire other schools and universities to do the same.

The Washington Post

Legendary Organic Restauranteur Nora Pouillon Takes Home the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award

By Maura Judkis

Nora Pouillon, founder of Nora's, Washington D.C.'s only and one of the country's first certified organic restaurants, has been given the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award. This is such deserving recognition to a true pioneer, who will be greatly missed as she heads into retirement.

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