Organic News

Organic or Conventional - It Depends on the Definition of “Herd”

April 28, 2015 - The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has issued proposed rules aimed at limiting the transition of non-organically-raised dairy animals into organic production, moving to resolve a debate that has long roiled the organic dairy industry.

The proposed rules would narrow an exception originally designed to make it easier for conventional dairy farmers to convert their operations to organic. In general, dairy animals must be raised on organic feed and under organic management practices from the third trimester of gestation before their eventual milk production can be certified as organic. But National Organic Program (NOP) regulations include an exception for conventional dairy farmers wishing to transition to organic production.

For those farmers, the NOP allows an existing dairy herd to be reclassified as organic after no less than 12 months of organic management. The exception was intended as a one-time event to help individual farmers avoid the substantial hurdle of herd replacement. Milk from transitioned cows may be sold as organic, but the cows themselves cannot later be sold for slaughter as organic beef.  

Organic Sales, Farm Growth Soar in 2014

April 15, 2015 - The U.S. organic industry enjoyed robust growth in 2014, with the number of certified organic farms increasing by more than 5 percent over 2013, and domestic sales of all organic products soaring 11 percent to more than $39 billion.

Organic food sales accounted for $35.9 billion of that total, with organic fruits and vegetables now accounting for 12 percent of all produce sold in the U.S. And while organic exports are growing, they are dwarfed by organic imports, reflecting U.S. farmers’ inability to keep pace with demand.

The statistics were released today to coincide with this week’s Organic Policy Conference and Hill Days in Washington DC, an annual gathering of organic stakeholders sponsored by the Organic Trade Association. Speaking to a sold-out crowd at Washington's Newseum, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the number of certified organic farms in the U.S. increased to 19,474 last year, out of a global total of 27,814. Read the USDA press release here.

Tasty Bread from "Impossible" Wheat

April 15, 2015 - Conventional wisdom says it’s impossible to make bread from Eastern white wheat. But a Wegman’s store in upstate New York is using locally-grown organic flour from Frederick, an older variety of white wheat, in its house-baked flutes. And the flutes are now the most popular item in the bread aisle.

OFRF Goes to Washington

April 13, 2015 - OFRF Executive Director Brise Tencer joined with Organic Trade Association colleagues this morning for a well-attended briefing to House Organic Caucus staffers, kicking off a week-long series of events for OTA’s annual Policy Conference & Hill Visit Days.

Tencer joined OTA CEO Laura Batcha, Vice-president of Government Affairs Marni Karlin and Board Chair Missy Hughes, and CCOF President of Certification Services Jake Lewin, to bring Capitol Hill denizens up-to-date on the successes, challenges and critical needs of the fast-growing organic industry.

“The policy conference is Wednesday and our Capitol Hill visits are Thursday, so this was an opportunity to give our Congressional champions a preview of the most current issues facing organic,” Tencer said. “We are discussing a range of issues, but the focus is absolutely about how to boost the supply of organic production, farms and farmers.”

OFRF to Congress: Support Organic Farmers!

April 14, 2015 - OFRF’s policy team is off and running! Looking ahead to the coming year, OFRF Policy Associate Jane Shey has submitted Fiscal Year 2016 funding requests to Congress, seeking increased federal funding for the Organic Transitions Program, National Organic Program, Organic Data Initiative, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, Food Safety Outreach Program, and other vital programs supporting U.S. organic farmers.

OFRF is also seeking increased support for non-GMO and non-biotech plant and animal breeding programs, reversing decades of dwindling support for public cultivar development tailored to regional growing conditions and freely available to all farmers.

Click here to read our letter to Congress.

Fiscal Year 2016 Congressional Funding Request




Written Statement on FY 2016 Requests

on behalf of the

Organic Farming Research Foundation

submitted to the

Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA, & Related Agencies

Senate Committee on Appropriations

March 27, 2015


USDA Commits $23 Million to Citrus Greening Research

April 14, 2015 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced $23 million in funding to support research and extension projects aimed at fighting citrus greening disease, also known as Huanglongbing (HLB), a bacterial disease that has infected more than 75 percent of Florida’s citrus crop since appearing in the U.S. a decade ago.

The USDA grants, available through the agency’s Citrus Disease Research and Education Program (CDRE), are available to researchers investigating both organic and conventional approaches to controlling the spread of HLB.

"Citrus greening threatens citrus production in the United States and other nations," said Vilsack. "Only long-term solutions through research will help to stop this disease that threatens the livelihoods of thousands of citrus producers and workers and billions of dollars in sales."

USDA Extends Public Comment Period on Crop Coexistence Strategies

March 20, 2015 - A first of its kind stakeholder workshop aimed at reducing conflict between the growers of organic, conventional, genetically-modified and identity-preserved crops, sparked extensive debate in North Carolina last week, prompting the U.S. Department of Agriculture to extend public comment on the event to April 10th.

The USDA held its Stakeholder Workshop on Coexistence at North Carolina State University on March 12-13 in Raleigh, North Carolina. OFRF was an invited organization at the workshop, and our Research Director, Dr. Diana Jerkins, participated in group discussions.

USDA had initially announced that public comment on the workshop and proposed USDA actions workshop participants discussed would be open until March 27. But based on feedback from workshop participants, USDA is extending the public comment period an additional two weeks. USDA has already received more than 4,100 comments about the workshop, and OFRF urges organic growers to add their voices to this vitally important discussion. 

OFRF Welcomes Policy Associate Jane Shey to Our Team

March 13, 2015 – Following a national search, OFRF is proud to announce the addition of Policy Associate Jane E. Shey to our staff. Shey brings decades of experience in national agricultural policy, including stints as a district agricultural caseworker, legislative assistant, Staff Director to a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee, and Chief of Staff to Rep. Timothy Penny (D-MN). After leaving Capitol Hill, Shey started a business as an agriculture, international trade and environmental lobbyist.

Her legislative activities include working closely with the House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committees to obtain funding for multiple trade, research and rural development programs.  She has also worked with the House and Senate Agriculture Committees on trade, the federal crop insurance program and domestic agriculture policy, and has worked on either the legislative or regulatory side of five farm bills.

OFRF's 18th Expo West Luncheon a Smashing Success

March 13, 2015 – OFRF’s 18th Annual Luncheon at Expo West was a smashing success, welcoming more than 300 leaders of the organic community to a sold-out celebration featuring an all-organic feast, organic wine and cocktail mixer, live music, and an inspiring keynote speech from Dr. Kevin Murphy, an organic grain researcher and OFRF grantee.

This year’s March 5th luncheon, held under sunny skies on the Grand Plaza of the Anaheim Convention Center, marked the 25th anniversary of OFRF’s founding. After 18 consecutive years, OFRF’s all-organic event has become the traditional kick-off to the Natural Products Expo West trade show at the Anaheim Convention Center.

“The organic community is growing by leaps and bounds, but this event reminds us of our roots, and the fundamental role of research in organic food production,” said OFRF Executive Director Brise Tencer. “The people I see here represent the committed core of organics, both past and future.”