Natural Foods Merchandiser

Organics well represented in new USDA Advisory Committee

On January 5th, Ag secretary Tom Vilsack announced 25 new members of the Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee. The committee members, appointed to two-year terms, advise the secretary on issues related to the fruit and vegetable industry. The peer-nominated members represent a broad array of interests within the industry, including growers, shippers, wholesalers, retailers, processors, foodservice suppliers, trade associations and state agriculture departments.

For the natural products industry, the good news is that the organics industry is well-represented on the new committee. “We’ve looked at the list, and three of the 25 appointees are actually from OTA member companies,” said Barbara Haumann, spokeswoman for the Organic Trade Association, based in Greenfield, Mass. “That’s 12 percent of appointees, and our 2009 survey showed organic fruits and vegetables made up 9.8 percent of all sales nationally, so this is closely aligned with what organic represents.”

OTA members include representative of Grimmway Farms, Del Cabo Inc., and Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc., which markets both conventional and organic strawberries. In addition, the committee includes an organic sales specialist from FirstFruits Marketing of Washington, a grower direct marketing group for whom organics makes up 20 percent of total sales by volume.

The new committee met with approval from other industry groups as well, especially for its diversity and representation of businesses large and small. “This is a good cross-section of the industry,” Kathy Means of the Produce Marketing Association, based in Newark, Del., told produce industry magazine The Packer.
“OTA was thrilled to see appointees representing different types and sizes or operations, and we’re looking forward to working with the committee as it addresses issues,” said Haumann.

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