“Organic food companies and retail stores face shortages of organic ingredients and products every year because domestic organic production just can’t keep up with the robust demand for organic. It’s not good when your store’s organic egg shelves are empty, or you have to put a ‘temporarily out of supplies’ sign on the door of the organic milk case. We need more organic farmers in America.”
Sarah Bird, Bhakti Chai
An Organic Check-off program would generate money for organic to successfully implement, develop, and manage programs needed to grow market share. Program categories include promotion, research, education, and increase supply. Well-funded, properly planned, and carefully monitored programs would help educate consumers about organic, distinguish organic from lesser claims, confirm the science behind the environmental and public health benefits of organic, undertake research to solve problems such as invasive pests and weed control, and bring new farmers into organic production through information and technical assistance.
One-third of organic consumers are new to the market—having purchased organic for less than two years. By educating consumers regarding the benefits behind certified organic claims and the difference between unregulated natural, sustainable, and eco-claims we give consumers information that will lead to an increase in their purchases of organic.
Research indicates a high level of confusion among consumers regarding verifiable organic claims and ‘natural’ and other eco-claims in the marketplace. Most consumers wrongly attribute organic benefits to unregulated natural products, with a recent study showing only one in ten consumers understands the difference between natural and organic. An Organic Check-Off will give consumers the information they need to understand the benefits of organic.
An Organic Check-Off program could help tackle unmet research needs, such as alternatives for weed control and agricultural inputs, translating into everyday solutions for organic farmers. In addition to agronomic and husbandry research focused on farmer needs, diverse research activities like nutritional value studies, confirming the environmental and human health benefits of organic food and farming, and compiling market data would be possible.
Twenty-five percent of producer assessments will be earmarked for local and regional research. A sub-committee of regional seat holders on the Check-Off Governance Board would recommend how those funds should be allocated based on need.
Farm-gate sales of organic crops reached 3.53 billion dollars in 2011 from 3.6 million certified acres. However, organic is still less than 1 percent of U.S. farmland. In the last three years there has been a decrease in the number of certified organic acres in the United States. Closing the gap between demand for organic products and U.S. organic production is critical.