Supplement Perspectives

Know Your Trade Association: the Organic Trade Association

Here’s the latest installment of this month’s series. Get informed and get involved!

Editor's note: Contributors were asked to either complete a questionnaire or use it as the basis for a post. These are the words of the contributor, who were selected by the association. Any edits made were done for space considerations. Want to be included? Contact [email protected].

What is the purpose of your association?

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for the organic industry in North America. Its mission is to promote and protect organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public, and the economy. OTA envisions organic products becoming a significant part of everyday life, enhancing people's lives, and the environment. OTA’s member organic businesses work together through networking, advocacy, and other initiatives to encourage and protect organic farming practices, and to share messages about the positive environmental and nutritional attributes of organic products with consumers, the media, and policymakers. 

Who does your membership consist of? What are the qualifications for membership?

OTA is the leading voice for U.S. organic agriculture and trade, representing over 6,500 businesses across 49 states. Members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers’ associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers, and others. Organic products represented include organic foods, ingredients and beverages, as well as organic fibers, personal care products, pet foods, nutritional supplements, household cleaners, and flowers.

Trade members are North American-based businesses or organizations engaged in the production, distribution, certification, or promotion of certified organic products and the services required to produce them. Trade members receive OTA member benefits and one vote. Businesses, organizations, and individuals supportive of principles consistent with those of organic agriculture without an office in North America or that receive no direct sales from the organic industry are only eligible for associate membership. Associate members receive OTA member benefits but do not have voting privileges.

In addition, OTA has established a Farmers Advisory Council (FAC) with broad representation of organic farmers across regions and production sectors. Through FAC, OTA has launched a new homestead membership for a nominal fee for small-scale organic farmers whose annual income from organic sales is less than $250,000 and who have current membership with one of the participating organizations on FAC.

What services or benefits do you provide your members? How is your organization different than others representing the natural products industry?

  • Serves as the voice of the U.S. organic industry in D.C., staffing an office there and actively engaging in conversations with policymakers, organizing an annual Policy Conference, and arranging member meetings with governmental agencies.
  • Fosters strategic alliances.
  • Encourages research on the benefits of organic agriculture and products through its affiliation with sister organization, The Organic Center.
  • Facilitates potential game-changing initiatives.
  • Collects and shares data on the North American organic industry and on organic consumers, illustrating the positive economic impact of organic agriculture and products, and the importance of consumer choice in the marketplace.
  • Facilitates international organic trade. A cooperator with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service Market Access Programs, OTA develops export-focused promotional activities for U.S. organic companies, and takes part in discussions to facilitate trade equivalency talks with other countries.
  • Educates the media and consumers about organic practices and benefits.

What does your organization hope to accomplish in the upcoming months?

Originally helping to establish organic standards in North America, OTA has evolved to actively take part in shaping policies to improve organic practices and to protect and promote the value of organic agriculture. Currently, OTA is heading up an effort to establish an organic research and promotion program. Such a groundbreaking check-off could further much needed research for organic agriculture and promote the attributes of organic to consumers who currently are confused by the many labels in the marketplace.

In your opinion, what's your role in the natural products industry?

OTA’s role within the natural products industry is to protect and communicate the value of organic food, fiber, and farming.

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