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Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.”  ~Booker T. Washington

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The View from here

As we approach the back half of winter, many of us are gearing up for the front end of the 2024 season of conferences, trade shows, and industry events which are essential to lifting our spirits, finding new opportunities, and connecting face to face. I’m just now returning from nearly back-to-back trips to San Antonio for the annual National Organic Program/Accredited Certifiers Association training and then to Biofach in Nuremberg, Germany.

At the ACA event, it became abundantly clear that the March 19 Strengthening Organic Enforcement deadline is real and imposing, with the NOP reaffirming expectations about what the community will find on March 20. The certification community heard the messages loud and clear and are doing their level best to serve the wave of new applicants as well as currently certified operators developing fraud prevention plans for the first time. The pressures on certifiers are palpable and weighty, and I suspect we’ll be seeing changes in the ACA landscape as a result.

5,490 miles away at Biofach, a vibrant and spirited global community came together to explore trade in organic ingredients, products, and services at a scale unlike anywhere else in the world. Think of the organic section of Expo West scaled up to be as large or larger than Expo West as a whole, with products and innovations represented from well over 100 countries. Robust, engaging and well-researched conference sessions confirmed that the global organic trade and policy community demands rigor in their education and advocacy endeavors as well as in their commercial efforts.

Speaking of Expo West, I look forward to diving in again this year, no doubt to throngs of attendees and exhibitors chasing dreams, making deals, and exploring opportunities of all descriptions. With its sister Expo East discontinued, it will be interesting to see what discernable changes will come to Anaheim in a few short weeks.

Whether these are events on your calendar as well or whether yours include any of hundreds of other organic events, it comforts me to know that we share similar visions, have made similar investments, and are looking to bring similar growth and benefits to the world… more organic ground, crops, food, textiles, and other goods to more people, in more places, doing more of our collective good work.

Wherever you’re going and however you are getting there, I wish you well. Gute Reise. Bon voyage. Trevlig resa. Buen viaje. May safe travels be yours.

John Foster

John Foster, COO and Organic Instigator, brings deep and broad experience in the organic sector and especially relishes working with clients’ innovative ideas and long-term strategic initiatives that benefit their business and the planet.

NOP News

Organic Market Development Grants to Benefit 20,000+ Producers
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced the 10 grant recipients awarded a total $9.75 million through the Organic Market Development Grant (OMDG). AMS prioritized projects addressing pinpointed market needs for organic grains and livestock feed, organic dairy, organic fibers, organic legumes and other rotational crops, and ingredients currently unavailable in organic form. Together these projects will provide information and services to more than 20,000 producers and 20,000 buyers to increase market opportunities for organic farmers.

Certifiers Honored for Excellence at NOP Training
At its January Certifier Training in San Antonio, the National Organic Program honored organic certifiers that delivered high quality data to the Organic INTEGRITY Database in 2023 and made outstanding contributions to the work of organic certification.
The seventh annual Investing in INTEGRITY Data Quality Award recipients:

  • CCOF Certification Services, LLC (CCOF) – Santa Cruz, CA 
  • Clemson University (CU) – Pendleton, SC
  • Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) – Broomfield, CO
  • Public Institution “Ekoagros” (EKOAGROS) – Kaunas, Lithuania
  • Marin Organic Certified Agriculture (MOCA) – Novato, CA
  • MOFGA Certification Services, LLC (MOFGA) – Unity, ME
  • Oregon Tilth Certified Organic (OTCO) – Corvallis, OR
  • Quality Certification Services (QCS) – Gainesville, FL
  • Yolo County Department of Agriculture (YDA) – Woodland, CA

Three certifiers were honored for their active, effective communication and collaboration with NOP staff on a wide range of issues and day-to-day operations, including fraud investigations. The 2024 National Organic Program Director’s Award recipients:

  • Ecocert SAS (ECO) – L’isle Jourdain, France
  • Oregon Tilth Certified Organic (OTCO) – Corvallis, OR
  • Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) – Lincoln, NE

International News

More Organic Farms, Farmland and Food Sales in 2022
Globally, organic farmland and farms increased in 2022, with global organic farmland up 26.6% to 96 million hectares and 2% of the world’s farmland in 2022, according to The World of Organic Agriculture, published by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) and IFOAM – Organics International and released at BioFach.
Sales of organic food hit €135 billion in 2022, with the United States once again the top market globally (€56.6 billion), followed by Germany (€15.3 billion) and the new number 3: China (€12.4 billion). Retail sales in Canada (+9.7%) and the United States (+4.4% increased, while sales in some European countries declined. The Swiss spent the most on organic food (an average of €437 per person), and Denmark continued to have the highest share of the organic market at 12% of the total food market.
In 2022, the number of organic producers increased about 26%, to reach 4.5 million, primarily due to a significant increase in India. India also remained the country with the most organic producers in 2022 (2.5 million producers).
Everyone in Denmark Buys Organic
In a presentation on organic fruits and vegetables, Carsten Ahrenfeldt, Marketing Director of Organic Denmark, reported that 99.7% of Danes buy organic products at least once per year, and 75% buy organic products at least weekly. Despite some challenges, including Corona virus pandemic, war in Europe, and increasing prices in recent years, organic food is 13.9% of all food consumed in Denmark, and 38% of households buy 30% or more of their food as organic.
Europe Drops Pesticide Reduction Plan
After weeks of farmer protests, the European Commission scrapped plans to cut pesticide use by 50% by 2030. Although the bill had broad public support, farmers argued that food production was at risk. More.
Soil Association Salmon Standards Questioned
During an open comment period for proposed updates to the Soil Association’s standards for organic salmon farming, a group of over 30 organizations signed an open letter requesting that salmon and trout farms be removed from organic certification. Their main complaints were that breaches of standards were rarely enforced and that the standards, especially for mortality levels, allopathic treatments, sea lice treats to wild fish, use of wild cleaner fish and wild-caught fish as feed, do not meet consumer expectations. Wildfish, the lead signatory on the letter, focuses on threats to wild fish from open-net salmon farming, pollution and removing too much water from fish habitats (over-abstraction).
Canada Drafts Plastics Reporting Proposal
Canada is proposing a Federal plastics registry, including packaging used in agriculture and food manufacturing, through its life cycle on the Canadian market. The proposed Plastic Registry is part of Canada’s Zero Plastic Waste Agenda, aimed at reducing plastic pollution. More.
Japan Uses Organic Agriculture To Help Meet Climate Targets
Through its Measures for Achievement of Decarbonization and Resilience law, Japan is aiming for 25% of farmland to be organic by 2050. The Organic Standard reports that 0.6% of Japan’s farmland is managed organically, including certified and non-certified organic farms. The law, enacted in 2021, supports participatory guarantee systems as well as third party certification. Other targets include 50% reduction in risk-weighted use of chemical pesticide s, and 30% reduction in chemical fertilizer use.
IFOAM Responds to US Lawsuit on Grower Groups
IFOAM—Organics International expressed concern about litigation against the US Department of Agriculture that questions the ways certification producer groups are handled under the Strengthening Organic Enforcement rules. The suit, brought by hazelnut grower Pratum Farm and backed by OrganicEye, claims that the new regulations ignore the requirement to inspect every operation annually. IFOAM—Organics International provides information about grower groups and their internal control systems, and says, “Grower groups play a key role in supporting organic farming and provide organic market access for millions of honest, hard-working smallholder farmers that care for the land and provide ecological benefits.”

Organic Industry News & Notices

Apply for Organic Transition Assistance ASAP
The national deadline to apply for Organic Transition Initiative support is March 1, but some states have earlier deadlines. Producers beginning or in the process of transitioning to organic certification are encouraged to apply at their local Natural Resource Conservation Service office. Applications that arrive after the deadline will be held for future consideration. More.
USDA Funds OTA’s International Promotions
The Organic Trade Association received $1.05 million from the USDA Market Access Program to promote US organic products around the world in 2024. USDA statistics show a nearly 20% increase in exports over the last five years. Canada and Mexico remain the primary export destinations for U.S. organic products by a wide margin, though Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates are also strong export markets. Within the last couple of years, China and Vietnam have also edged into the top 10 export destinations for the first time. OTA’s international promotion activities are open to members and non-members, and include trade shows, social media campaigns, retail promotions, consumer education, and more.

Inside the Beltway

Farm Bill Update
After Congress extended the current 2018 Farm Bill until September 30, 2024, the most likely scenario will be for the current law to expire again on Oct. 1, amid the other budget crises and the looming election. The organic presence in Washington has fresh energy with Matthew Dillon taking on the co-CEO role at Organic Trade Association, including a lead role in Congressional Relations. Despite delays, communicating with Federal legislators about the importance of Farm Bill proposals as they coalesce continues to be the essential activity for everyone with an organic business.
More Needs to Be Done to Reach Net-Zero Emissions
The Fifth National Climate Assessment, the congressionally mandated, interagency report on climate change impacts, risks and response, predicts significant climate shifts across the country. Although greenhouse gas emissions have declined in recent decades, more needs to be done to mitigate climate change and adapt to the changes that are coming. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has a good summary of the sections related to agriculture.
USDA Funding Opportunities Support Sustainable Agriculture
Several USDA programs have spring application deadlines, some as early as February. Grants are available for research and education, local food, organic transition, rural business development, urban agriculture, energy efficiency and more. Some grants are for organizations and some are available to individuals and businesses. Thanks, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, for compiling a list
New Risk Management Training Proposals Due March 4
Organizations, such as nonprofits and land grant universities, can apply for Risk Management Agency’s Risk Management Education Partnerships to develop training and resources for producers about risk management options like crop insurance. Up to $3 million is available for cooperative agreements to educate underserved, small-scale and organic producers on risk management and climate-smart practices. Applications are due March 4.

GMO News

Home Gardeners Can Now Have GMO Purple Tomatoes
Billed as the first GMO seeds for home gardeners, seed producer Norfolk Healthy Produce is selling tomatoes genetically modified with snapdragon genes to produce purple skin and flesh. Seeds, which will sell at $20 for 10, will only be available in the United States.

The Survey Says…

Organic Sales in Europe Grow A Bit
Despite inflation and lower disposable income in 2022 and 2023, European Union organic sales were expected to grow slightly in 2023, reports the USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service.  They estimated that the 2022 EU organic market totaled $55.1 billion. Together, Germany and France represent about 60% of the EU organic market, followed by Italy, Sweden, Spain, Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands. Latvia Lithuania, Bulgaria and Poland had the highest growth rates of organic sales in 2023.

Organic Community

IFOAM Appoints New Executive Director
Ravi R. Prasad, who previously worked at Oxfam, the International Press Institute, UNICEF, ActionAid International, and Transparency International, is the new Executive Director of IFOAM—Organics International. He succeeds Marco Schlüter, who served as the Interim Executive Director on a part-time basis since August 2022.
Job Openings Spring Up

Bob’s Red Mill Founder Passed Away
Bob Moore, founder of Bob’s Red Mill, passed away at home on February 10, at the age of 94. In 2010, he transferred his company to his employees through a stock ownership plan. Our condolences to those he left behind