While the US Organic Trade Association (OTA) had good news after the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded the OTA nearly $850,000 for 2018 market promotion, the OTA launched a campaign in December after the USDA announced it would withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule, published in the Federal Register.

The OTA launched the 'Protect organic now' campaign and placed a full-page advertisement in the Washington Post, and (joined by more than 70,000 organic advocates) filed comments in opposition to the proposed withdrawal of animal welfare standards in organic.

"The USDA just launched an assault on organic food and farming. It's time to fight back. In an outrageous move, the USDA has said that they intend to withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule. This USDA action goes against the overwhelming support of organic farmers, businesses, and consumers to advance animal welfare standards in organic," the OTA said.

The OTA said that by the department’s own count, out of the more than 47,000 comments the department received in the last public comment period for the regulation, 99 percent were in favor of the rule becoming effective without further delay on November 14, while the USDA noted that only 28 comments supported withdrawing the rule.

"Consumers trust that the Organic seal stands for a meaningful difference in production practices. It makes no sense that the Trump Administration would pursue actions that could damage a marketplace that is giving American farmers a profitable alternative, creating jobs, and improving the economies of our rural areas," the OTA added.

"Most striking is the administration’s continued confusion that organic standards are mandatory rather than voluntary."

The OTA filed an amended complaint in Federal Court. "We will continue our fight to uphold organic standards, that this Administration continues to willfully ignore by repeatedly delaying this fully vetted and final voluntary organic standard, and now proposing to withdraw it," the OTA said.

First-time exposure on a new continent, sponsored activities in five new countries, and the creation of a host of new organic exporters are some of the benchmarks achieved by the OTA's robust export promotion efforts in 2017. This success promises to continue in 2018 with the award of USD847,000 to the association by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market Access Program in November.

“Our export promotion programs work. In all of the countries where we do activity, US organic exports to those regions have grown,” said Monique Marez, director of International Trade for the OTA. “The organic industry can’t happen without trade, and we are looking forward to continuing our efforts in 2018 to help expand the organic market.”

“We thank the USDA for appreciating the importance of our export promotion activities and supporting our work,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of the OTA. “There are huge opportunities – and challenges – for the US organic sector throughout the world, and we’re helping the industry to take advantage of those opportunities in untapped markets and to meet the challenges created by the growing global appetite for organic.”

In 2017, export promotion included the Anuga trade show in Germany, where the OTA showcased organic products from eight first-time organic exhibitor companies. The OTA has planned for 2018:

• In Germany, its largest organic pavillion ever at the BioFach World Organic Fair in February.
• In Australia, first time participation in April at the Naturally Good Show.
• In Israel, its first trade mission to the Middle East.
• In Dubai, Hong Kong and Japan, a focus on retailer partnerships and demonstrate US organic to consumers.
• In the US, expand an existing partnership with FoodExport Midwest and Northeast and co-host Buyers’ Missions to the Natural Products Expo West and Expo East trade shows