When the DARK Act passed last year, there were many people who felt that the Organic Trade Association (OTA) had betrayed the organic community by agreeing to and praising this horrible GMO-labeling bill.
As a result, organizations such as Dr. Bronner’s, OSGATA and others quit the OTA in protest, believing that the interests of organic consumers and small farmers were not being properly represented in Washington, D.C.
With support from the Rodale Institute, the Organic Farmers Association (OFA) was subsequently formed, all with the goal of providing organic farmers a unified voice in the nation’s capital.
Given that it is coming up on one year since the organization was first announced and with the need for strong representation of organic farmers greater than ever, I wanted to get an update on where things stand with the Organic Farmers Association. So, I reached out to Kate Mendenhall, Director of the OFA, and here is what she had to say.
What is the latest with the Organic Farmers Association?
We have been spending a lot of time building the infrastructure of the organization. More specifically, we have merged the efforts of the Organic Farmers Alliance with about a dozen farming groups across the country, and it is now all under one umbrella – the Organic Farmers Association. Currently, Rodale Institute serves as the fiscal sponsor.
The Steering Committee has been formed, and the Policy Committee is being formed now. Each committee will be comprised of 2/3rds certified organic farmers and 1/3rd organic farmer organizations.
We just published the policy process, which lays out a clear framework for how we will create policies. This is going to be a democratic process, and committees will not control policy. It will be one farmer, one vote.
Without question, farmers are in control of OFA’s future.
Has the Organic Famers Association taken any action yet in Washington, D.C.?
We showed up in Washington, D.C. lobbying against the Monsanto-Bayer merger, and we also signed on to the National Organic Coalition’s letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue in support of sustainable agriculture.
However, we don’t want to set a precedent and take too many actions until the Policy Committee is formed. We want to make sure that organic farmers are behind everything we do.
Does the OFA have a full-time presence in Washington, D.C.?
In terms of having someone full-time doing the day-to-day lobbying in D.C., we expect to have that person in place by the fourth quarter of this year. Elizabeth Kucinich is on our Advisory Committee and is helping us with strategy, but she is not doing the day-to-day lobbying.
What is your take on the Organic Trade Association?
The OTA plays an important role in trade, and large farmers fall into that category. Trade isn’t necessarily focused on small farmers.
Some people wish the OTA would listen more to small farmers, and it is important that these farmers have a seat at the table.
Once we grow stronger, we intend to form collaborative relationships with all groups. This way, we can have conversations earlier rather than later and can work together in this movement.
Overall, how do you feel about things?
I’ve been working in the organic farmer movement my whole career and used to run NOFA-NY, and I am so excited that this organization finally got formed. Organic agriculture is really growing, and we desperately need an organization representing organic farmers, on both the local and regional level.
While we definitely want the OFA to have a seat at the table, we have higher ambitions. We want to make sure our legislators in Washington, D.C. know, respect and are working for organic farmers across the country. The politicians have to hear directly from organic farmers, and they need to be held more accountable.
We must ensure that agricultural policies support even more organic farming across the nation and that issues such as fair pricing, contracts and contamination are addressed.
If it weren’t for the tremendous generosity of Rodale Institute providing operational support and Dr. Bronner’s providing vital financial assistance (see here and here), the Organic Farmers Association would not be where it is today. And the fact that we now have a national organization representing the interests of organic farmers in Washington, D.C. is incredibly important.
It goes without saying that we all wish that the OFA were further along but, as usual, it comes down to money. The Organic Farmers Association can only grow so fast, given its funding constraints.
However, the core infrastructure is getting in place, and I believe that donations could yield strong results in a short period of time. Furthermore, more members are joining each week.
The bottom line is that certified organic farmers in the U.S. must have a dedicated voice in Washington, D.C. and the Organic Farmers Association is making that happen.
To become a member or to learn more about the OFA, you can visit its website HERE.
I hope you had a great July 4th!
Max Goldberg, Founder
The serious issue of fraudulent organic grains from abroad has gotten the attention of Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).
Activist investors agitating for change at organic food companies seems to be a trend these days. This time, Engaged Capital is pushing for change at Hain Celestial.
While it is often perceived that Amazon is saving Whole Foods, this interesting article makes the case why it is actually the other way around.
Love this! A new program will help consumers identify products that are working to protect pollinator health.
Normally, it is organic consumers and farmers protesting against Monsanto. This time, conventional farmers are going after the company because of massive dicamba contamination.
An excellent and fascinating recap of the panel discussion that took place at the Fancy Food Show, which included experts from Whole Foods, Walmart, Peapod and others.
Carole Bamford’s organic farm/shop/restaurant/wellness center in the UK has opened its first outpost in the U.S. I am happy to know that NYC is next.
If you’re pretty obsessed with health, like I am, this article about our thoughts and telomere length is a good reminder that it isn’t just about the food that we put into our bodies.
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* In preparation for the GMO-labeling law set to go into effect next year, the USDA has posed 30 questions to the general public in order to take into consideration all stakeholder input. I plan on addressing these questions in next week’s Organic Insider.
* In what has received hardly any media attention, New York City’s juice bar chain Organic Avenue has closed its doors for the second, and probably final, time.
* The closing was abrupt, and some vendors have been hit very hard, possibly forcing a few of them to go into bankruptcy as well.
* In case you missed the Alert that I sent out on Monday, Stonyfield was purchased for $875 million by the French dairy conglomerate Lactalis.
* Beyond Pesticides wants members of Congress to demand that the EPA evaluate the impact of pesticide mixtures and synergistic effects, not just as standalone chemicals. You can sign the e-petition HERE.