The exemption for organic commodities from assessments in promotion programs and marketing orders is being expanded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Currently, the exemption applies only to firms that produce, handle, market, or import products that are certified 100% organic, according to a news release from the USDA. The 2014 farm bill expands the exemption to firms that also grow, ship or handle conventionally-grown products. non-organic products. The proposed rule would decrease the number of organic firms paying the assessments.
The provision is important to the organic sector, said Laura Batcha, chief executive officer and executive director of the Organic Trade Association.
“OTA has worked very hard to get this exemption on the books, and we are optimistic that this important regulation will now soon take effect,” Batcha said in a news release. “We’re pleased USDA is moving swiftly to allow the industry to use its money to grow and develop its own sector.”
The USDA estimates that not having to contribute to conventional check-offs will free up an extra $13.6 million for organic stakeholders to invest back into the organic industry, according to the OTA.
The 2014 Farm Bill also authorizes USDA to consider and have a vote on an organic research and promotion check-off program if the organic sector submits to the agency an official proposal for an organic check-off, according to the relase. The group has been gathering input from organic stakeholders for the past three years on how best to shape a check-off program that could effectively serve the industry, according to the release.
Under federal marketing order programs, eligible handlers would be exempt from the portion of the total assessment that is designated for market promotion activities. There are 23 marketing order programs that have market promotion authority, including hass avocados, blueberries, potatoes, mangoes, mushrooms and watermelons.
The comment period on the proposal lasts to Jan. 16.