Our government may have slowed to a trickle, but your trade association is still busy at work for you. In fact, uncertainty in Washington hasn’t halted progress at OTA’s headquarters in D.C. or across the nation on critical initiatives to advance organic.
The government shutdown is finishing its second week and every day brings new challenges to the organic sector. Just yesterday USDA officially cancelled the fall National Organic Standards Board meeting. This is on the heels of the furloughing of all National Organic Program (NOP) staff, and shutdown of the NOP website. While much important work has ground to a halt in terms of advancing organic standards, Gwendolyn Wyard, OTA’s regulatory director of organic standards and food safety, has her NOP handbook out and is fielding questions from members unable to access USDA’s resources.
The government shutdown also marked the expiration of the farm bill extension passed in January. Imperative programs continue to be unfunded at the expense of key investments in organic food and farming. Marni Karlin, director of legislative and legal affairs, is steadily working with elected officials to prepare for an eventual conference committee to resolve the differences between the Senate and House versions of the Farm Bill. Informal discussions are underway, and we remain hopeful there will be some progress this fall. It is still a great time to weigh in with your members of congress on the importance of a five-year farm bill that meets the needs of the growing organic industry.
Meanwhile, OTA’s critical work on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed rules for food safety is in full force across the country. This week alone, over 120 certified operations will participate in webinars outlining OTA’s draft comments on the produce and preventative rules to gain further input from the field and to provide all the resources necessary for members to comment directly to FDA on the regulations—with the hope that the government will be open by the November 15 comment deadline.
We are also continuing our outreach to all U.S. certified organic operations on options for a potential collective organic research and marketing program. Please sign up for the More Organic e-newsletter and weigh in on the Options for a Framework stakeholder survey, if you haven’t already done so. And look for more engaging information to hit your mailboxes this fall.
It may be quiet on K-Street but OTA, in conjunction with the Organic Center, will reach Main Street and millions of consumers with our messages about organic value and benefits through an experiential media tour in New York City in early November. I’ll be joined by Dr. Jessica Shade and we’ll be meeting with dozens of national lifestyle, women’s and food publications to discuss the science behind the healthful benefits of an organic lifestyle as well as demonstrate that organic food is affordable for budget-conscious families.
As you can tell, OTA is hard at work in spite of the government shutdown. We will continue to provide you with additional clarification as we learn more about plans to reopen the government. Stay tuned to OTA’s Government Affairs Forum for up-to-the-minute news out of OTA’s D.C. office and feel free to reach out to myself or David Gagnon, OTA’s chief operating officer and interim co-executive director, with any questions. You can rest assured that we consider our work to promote and protect organic as “essential.”
Executive Vice President
Interim Co-Executive Director
Organic Trade Association