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Farmers Advisory Council Annual Report

The Organic Trade Association (OTA)’s Farmers Advisory Council (FAC) provides OTA with input from small- and medium-sized organic farmers, ranchers, and growers for organic agriculture’s advancement. Established in 2013, FAC was designed to formalize and improve communication between OTA and organic producers. Through open dialogue, FAC gives organic farmers direct influence on the Association’s policy agenda and enables OTA to better represent the diversity of organic producers in legislative and regulatory advocacy.


MEMBERS & PARTNER ORGANIZATIONS

The Farmers Advisory Council is a broad coalition between OTA and organic farming organizations spread across the country and various sectors. The Council is comprised of representatives from state and regional farming organizations representing organic as well as direct Organic Trade Association farmer members who volunteer to participate. FAC partner organizations enter an agreement with the Organic Trade Association for the mutual benefit of strengthening the organic industry’s national public policy influence.

Through these partnerships, FAC is one of the largest coalitions of organic farmers and organic farming organizations in the United States, representing nearly 8,000 organic livestock, poultry, grain, and specialty crop producers from most regions and production systems across the country.


FARMERS ADVISORY COUNCIL HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2020

Organic farmers faced challenges in 2020 stemming directly from COVID-19. The top priorities for their work during 2020 were completed.

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COVID-19 Resiliency and Relief

As a direct result of COVID-19, members communicated with each other and to OTA about impacts of COVID-19 on agricultural production, workforce safety, and organic certification. Based off feedback and information shared from members, they influenced OTA’s policy strategy to USDA about the needs of organic farming community. OTA staff shard information with members about accessing relief programs (CFAP, PPP, EIDL).

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Immigration Reform and Workforce Safety

Received regular briefings from the Organic Trade Association Legislative Team on opportunities to addressing challenges related to farm labor including Agricultural Worker Program; Young Farmer Success Act; Cuellar-Newhouse Amendment in House’s Homeland Security FY20 Appropriations; Dairy and Sheep H-2A Visa Enhancement Act; and H-2A modernization final rule. Members also received briefing on Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA) from California Farm Bureau Federation.

In 2020, members voted unanimously in support of recommendation for OTA to support the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. The Organic Trade Association Board of Directors unanimously adopted FAC’s recommendation to support Farm Workforce Modernization Act and also to support other advocacy efforts to elevate the issue of agricultural workforce safety, particularly in response to the coronavirus outbreak (read this press release to learn more).

Council members will continue to advocate for policies that support the health, safety, and legal standing of agricultural farmworkers, including assistance to protect workers during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021.

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Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

The FAC Climate Change Working Group evaluated and provided feedback to the Organic Trade Association on climate legislation that supports and rewards organic farmers for ecosystem services. Members elevated this issue to the Board of Directors, which established a member task force to evaluate legislation and develop organic-friendly climate policy.

In addition, the working group reviewed and provided feedback on OTA’s Climate Change White Paper before its publication, and offered suggestions on coalition partners to engage with on climate policy.

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Protection from Residue Contamination

The FAC Contamination Working Group discussed latest research updates and consumer messaging about residue contamination issues. In addition, members sent a letter of support for The Organic Center’s Project: Finding Solutions to Chemical Contamination of Organic Crops. In fact, this project was awarded! Read the press Release on active TOC OREI Grants.

LOOKING AHEAD IN 2021
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On February 23-24, 2021, the Farmers Advisory Council will be hosting a Virtual FAC Fly In. Organic farmers and regional farm organizations from across the country will meet with members of Congress and USDA to discuss issues of importance including advancing organic standards, fighting climate change, and ensuring organic farmers get adequate support in federal COVID relief efforts.  This event elevates the voice of farmers to our nation’s policymakers, particularly in a moment of Presidential transition. Participants will have an opportunity to welcome the new Biden administration and new Congress to educate them on the importance of organic to U.S. agriculture and our communities and amplify policy priorities identified by FAC.

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The Fly-In will help lay the foundation for the next phase of FAC’s work plan, which is to begin the process of developing policy priorities for the next Farm Bill. The work to define these priorities is an involved multi-year process for FAC members to identify critical needs for organic farmers, inform the Organic Trade Association’s Farm Bill policy platform, and advocate for successful adoption and implementation of the policies.

FAC will also work on developing its 2021 work plan to address other critical needs for organic farmers. A priority for FAC is to support efforts to increase diversity and inclusion among FAC membership.

JOIN OUR COUNCIL MEMBERS
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COUNCIL OFFICERS

The Organic Trade Association’s Farmers Advisory Council is co-chaired by Perry Clutts, Organic Farmer and OTA’s Board of Director’s Farmer Seat, and Doug Crabtree, Organic Farmer and OTA's Board of Director’s Member. The work of the Council is supported by OTA’s Farm Policy Director, Johanna Mirenda.

HOW TO JOIN

Interested organic farmers and organic farming sector, state, and regional organic farming organizations should contact Organic Trade Association Farm Policy Director, Johanna Mirenda.