The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has extended the deadline for public comments on a proposal for a nationwide research and promotion check-off program for the organic industry in the US.
Referred to as GRO Organic (Generic Research and Promotion Order for Organic), the program allows pooling of private-sector funding to support industry-wide research and consumer education campaigns. The organic check-off is groundbreaking in that a minimum of 50% – and up to 75% – of the program’s funds will be committed to research.
According the Organic Trade Association (OTA) the program could raise over $30 million a year to spend on research to make farmers successful, technical services to accelerate the adoption of organic practices, and consumer education and promotion of the organic brand.
“The time is right for a research and promotion check-off program designed for the organic sector. It’s time for organic stakeholders to invest back in our movement—to fund research to help organic farmers, to create and initiate projects to nurture new organic farmers. An organic check-off will allow us to speak to the American consumer in a strong and unified voice,” says Melissa Hughes, president of OTA’s Board of Directors and Director of Government Affairs for Organic Valley.
The new deadline is 19 April and, to date, nearly 1,400 organic stakeholders publicly support the GRO Organic check-off, with 75% of those organic certificate holders being farmers and ranchers.
The final step will be a referendum on the proposed check-off, with all certified organic stakeholders paying into the program eligible to vote. Approval by a majority of the organic stakeholders voting is required for implementation.