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Dairy Sector Council Annual Report

The Organic Trade Association’s Dairy Council gives members in the dairy industry an organized and ongoing forum for discussing organic specific dairy issues, challenges, and opportunities. It works together to grow the organic industry and to use the Organic Trade Association (OTA) member community system for networking and problem-solving. The Dairy Council brings together farmers, handlers, processors, and manufacturers to discuss ideas around promotion, research, and education; to vocalize the benefits of the sector; to identify opportunities for continuous improvements and advance solutions; and to advocate for dairy policy.

DAIRY COUNCIL ACTIVITY IN 2020
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Advocating for Clear Regulations and Consistent Enforcement of Organic Dairy Standards

A key priority for the Dairy Council in 2020 was advocating for clear and consistent regulation and enforcement of organic dairy standards. In response to the ongoing delay of the Origin of Organic Livestock Rule (OOL), in violation of a Congressional mandate, Council members sent a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue in November 2020 urging USDA to issue a final rule. Further delay would cause continued economic harm to organic dairies. Based on the Dairy Council’s continued focus on OOL, and the rule’s importance to organic integrity, OTA continues to advocate for the rule with the new administration and incoming USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

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Pivoting to COVID-19 Efforts

The novel coronavirus changed the landscape of the United States’ economy and the organic dairy market was not immune to the new challenges and opportunities posed by the pandemic. Initial rounds of COVID-19 relief through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), and demand for USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation funds did not immediately take the unique features of the organic dairy market into account. Based on Council feedback, Organic Trade Association staff advocated for changes that took organic price premiums into account, to allow for certification flexibilities, and to supply farms and businesses with the resources they need to safely continue operations and keep the nation’s food supply safe.

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Strengthening Organic Enforcement

The Dairy Council is pleased that the National Organic Program is addressing needed updates to organic enforcement and offered comments regarding the proposed Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) rulemaking to strengthen certain provisions and avoid unintended consequences. In August, the Council provided feedback on key areas of the Strengthening Organic Enforcement proposed rule: Applicability and Exemptions for Certification, Supply Chain Traceability and Organic Fraud Prevention, Import Certificates, Data Reporting, and Nonretail Labeling.

The Council continued to make significant progress on their ambitious 2020 work plan, despite the challenges presented by COVID-19.

  1. Data Collection, Regulation, and Enforcement: The Data Collection, Regulation, and Enforcement group were busy in 2020. The group identified the Strengthening Organic Enforcement’s data collection provision and recommended the NOP “explicitly requires data reporting to NOP by crop type, acreage and location (e.g. state), and number of animals by livestock type and location (e.g. state), at least on an annual basis to the Organic Integrity Database. Reports to the public will include aggregated acreage and livestock data only.” The Council also recommended that NOP collaborate with the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), which already collects semi-regular data on the organic sector.
     
  2. Stakeholder Outreach, Communications, and Consumer Awareness: In February, the Dairy Council hosted a risk management workshop for dairy producers at the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), one of the largest annual gatherings of organic farmers in the country.  Building off of consumer research done with Natural Marketing Institute and feedback from the Council, the Organic Trade Association created a Dairy-specific consumer messaging workbook. The workbook highlighted the best ways organic dairy businesses could highlight the nutrition, animal welfare, climate, and other benefits organic dairy offers to consumers across the United States and world.
     
  3. Risk Management: Dairy risk management tools were put to the test in 2020 and several opportunities identified by the Council were revealed. Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC), a USDA-backed insurance program farmers can enroll in early in the year, typically does not make cost-benefit sense for organic dairy farmers as organic premiums are not effectively captured in the programs rates. The pandemic highlighted the need for such programs to be reoriented in a way that makes sense for all dairy market participants, organic or not.
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2021
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Improve Data Collection

Work with USDA to improve data collection and reporting on organic dairy

Improve Data Collection
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Origin of Livestock

Ensure a final rule on Origin of Livestock is published

Origin of Livestock
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Listening Sessions

Continue outreach to stakeholders across the country by exploring holding virtual organic dairy listening sessions

Listening Sessions
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Promote Organic Benefits

Promote the nutritional, environmental and other many benefits of consuming organic dairy

Promote Organic Benefits
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Risk Management

Advocate for appropriate risk management tools at USDA that better serve the organic dairy market

Risk Management
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JOIN OUR COUNCIL MEMBERS
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CURRENT MEMBERS

Alexandre Ecodairy Farms, Aurora Organic Dairy, D & M Family Farm, Danone North America, Fagundes Bros. Dairy, Fair Hill Farms, Inc., General Mills, Harmony Organic Dairy LLC, K-n-R Farms Organics, Maple Hill Creamery, LLC, Mensonides LLC - Providence Farms, Organic Valley / CROPP Cooperative, Perk Farm Organic Dairy, Pleasantview Farm, Sheffers Grassland Dairy LLC, Stonyfield Organic, Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (WODPA)

MEET OUR MEMBERS 
 

COUNCIL OFFICERS

The Organic Trade Association’s Dairy Council is chaired by Britt Lundgren of Stonyfield Organic. Adam Warthesen of Organic Valley / CROPP Cooperative serves as the Vice Chair, and Perry Clutts of Pleasantview Farm as its Secretary. The Dairy Council is supported by the Organic Trade Association’s Vice President of Government Affairs Megan DeBates.

CALL TO PARTICIPATE

Working alongside Organic Trade Association staff, Dairy Council members raise the visibility of organic dairy sector needs in the U.S. Interested in participating in the Council in 2021? Contact Organic Trade Association’s Vice President of Government Affairs Megan DeBates.