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From the NODPA Desk:
November 2018

By Ed Maltby, NODPA Executive Director

The 2018 NODPA Field Days were very successful and the setting was just spectacular, well worth the long car drive. The warmth of the welcome from Myron, Janet and their family made the event relaxed and enjoyable for the diverse group of attendees and their families. For many of those who attended, this was their first exposure to NODPA and to see new faces participating enthusiastically in the program emphasized the importance of rotating the event around the region, rather than having it is the same place every year. The discussions around the issues of the day were perceptive and always ended on a positive note or vision for the future. The producer meeting raised issues that are very pertinent to all producers, and the exchange of information on relationships with milk buyers was very valuable.

Our work over the next year will be guided by those discussions plus the concerns raised by producers, individually and on conference calls. Incorporating social, philosophical and religious values into decision making is very much the basis of why we are drawn to farm and care for animals. Sometimes the answer really is 'This is what we do.' Not always the best start for negotiating a better pay price but all part of the rich fabric that makes us fight for the integrity of organic production.

The NOSB held its Fall meeting recently and took the time to make a recommendation on the need to sort out the chaos of the Origin of Livestock regulation. Hopefully, this will kick start the drive to reinstate the 2015 Proposed Rule which has finally risen to a priority for the leading organic advocates in Washington DC. With Lactalis taking over Stonyfield and Danone NA introducing new management, there is an increased opportunity to get support from buyers for regulation that is consistently enforced across all areas and by all certifiers. With one defined method of transitioning there would be no opportunity for certifiers to input their own preferences which better suit their region or clients. Regulations cannot be interpreted to suit the economic needs of producers and/or milk buyers. Once we allow that to happen we devolve back to the 'good old days' prior to OFPA with multiple different ways of being certified organic. Without strong and legally enforceable regulations, national milk buyers, large operations and large certifiers dictate conditions for selling certified product. As certifiers and milk buyers consolidate and work together on add-on labels and agreeing on their interpretation of regulations, producers will be left with fewer opportunities and choices. What is needed is clear regulation which can be audited simply and effectively that negates the need or ability for certifier shopping. Certifiers should concentrate on certifying to the law and regulation. Producers and milk buyers need to work together to improve the pay price, make policy recommendations and work together on regulations to improve conditions that organic family farms are living under.

The OTA have launched their new initiative to get comments on different ways to generate resources to promote the organic seal and organic research. The landscape is large on the many different ways to raise money, and OTA correctly asks many key questions that need answering before any proposals are put forward. There is no alternative to in-person meetings that convene all stakeholders to brainstorm the best way forward as a united community so I urge OTA to take these questions to the winter conferences and annual meetings. The aim must be to look at the best, most efficient, transparent and inclusive way to provide resources and money to do the work of promoting organic, promoting on-farm research and ensuring a better standard of living for organic producers that reflects their work and investment. Obviously, the answer to one of their question about whether the process should lead to a mandatory USDA commodity checkoff would be no, as that has been roundly rejected by a majority of the organic community. Some of the important questions that OTA does ask are around governance issues and fair distribution of resources; again transparency will build trust. The question still out there is whether the organic seal is homogenous enough to be considered a commodity or whether it is best to accept that there might need to be either regional grouping or commodity based groups. In future issues of the NODPA News we will provide more information on what OTA is asking and how folks can participate if they want to.

The Farm Bill is stalled as we go to press and there are mixed predictions about whether it will be completed in a lame duck session in 2018 or be taken up again in a new Congress in 2019. A lot depends on the elections and how the power shifts in Congress and within the committees. There are some positive signs that the now unfunded organic programs can use any surplus they have to continue the program. It certainly looks positive for the cost share program.

John Bobbe from OFARM has announced his retirement from his position. He is a good friend of producers everywhere and has done a monumental effort in building the strength of OFARM. He has tirelessly increased the organization's work domestically and internationally, extending its reputation around the globe. He led the exposure of illegal imports and forced USDA to act. He will be missed but I'm sure that he will be tempted back to the fray when needed. Good luck and best wishes John; enjoy your vacations in England and keep sending those pictures!