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USDA extends comment period for organic checkoff

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The checkoff is strongly supported by the Organic Trade Association and staunchly opposed by the No Organic Checkoff Coalition.

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has extended the comment period on a proposed organic checkoff to April 19 to “ensure that interested persons have sufficient time to review and comment on the proposal.”

The proposal was published in the Federal Register Jan. 18 with a 60-day comment period to close on March 20.

Developed by the Organic Trade Association, the checkoff could provide more than $30 million annually, and 50 percent to 75 percent would be earmarked for research and related activities, such as technical assistance and dissemination of research findings.

OTA says the checkoff would help the burgeoning organic industry meet demand by supporting more organic acreage and the success of organic producers. It would also help the industry educate consumers and increase market opportunity.

The No Organic Checkoff Coalition, however, opposes the checkoff, contending as little as 12.6 percent of checkoff funding could go to research under the proposal and that promoting sales now would only increase imports and lower prices to U.S. organic farmers.

In a press release on Friday, OTA urged USDA to avoid further delays once the extended comment period expires “in making this innovative program a reality that will help advance the growing organic sector and have important and long-lasting benefits for organic farmers, businesses and consumers alike.”

OTA noted the public support of nearly 1,400 organic stakeholders and the proposal’s overwhelming support, 10 to 1, thus far in the comment period.

Capital Press did not immediately hear back from the Coalition on Friday morning, but it earlier stated its petition against the checkoff has received nearly 1,900 signatures from organic stakeholders and support from 25 organic farming organization representing more than 6,000 farmers.

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