More time to determine fate of organic checkoff

More time to determine fate of organic checkoff

USDA extends deadline into July to submit proposals or comments on organic checkoff

USDA on Thursday said organic stakeholders would have 30 more days to decide if an industry-funded promotion, research and information order for organic products should proceed.

Related: Farm-state poll asks consumers about 'organic' and 'GMO' food label claims

The public now has until July 20, 2015, to submit alternative proposals or partial proposals on a new order, which would be developed under the Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information Act of 1996.

USDA said the Ag Marketing Service received a number of requests from organic stakeholders for additional time to provide input; AMS originally announced that it would accept proposals until June 19, 2015.

USDA extends deadline into July to submit proposals or comments on organic checkoff (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

AMS is only seeking proposals or partial proposals, it said. Comments on the submitted proposal or any other aspect of an organic research and promotion program will not be considered, AMS said. Interested parties will have full opportunity to submit comments when AMS publishes a proposed order.

Rumblings of an organic checkoff were confirmed May 12 when the Organic Trade Association said it would ask USDA to begin a vote on a checkoff program. The group hoped such a program would raise about $30 million per year, which would go to programs that expand the organic industry.

The National Farmers Union on Wednesday said extended deadline was a benefit to the industry.

"We believe it is in the best interest of organic family farmers and the future success and effectiveness of their checkoff that as many viewpoints and proposals as possible be solicited," NFU President Roger Johnson said.

Related: USDA: 250% increase in number of organic farmers since 2002

Johnson said because the organic checkoff idea is complex, farmers need additional time to review and submit proposals. "We are very pleased that USDA responded positively to our request for an extension, and we look forward to submitting a supplemental proposal that best serves the nation's organic family farmers and ranchers, as well as organic consumers."

According to OTA, about 5,000 organic farms and businesses responded to its surveys in developing the referendum, and responses were 2 to 1 in favor of it.

U.S. organic sales were nearly $40 billion in 2014, OTA said.

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