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‘Only Organic’ sums up the GRO Organic program

As the organic sales growth rate slows, stakeholders embark on a new voluntary check-off program of promotion, education and grower assistance.

The Organic Trade Association initiative has already gotten $1.5 million in investments for GRO Organic, but we don’t know yet what the program will look like.

“We’ve put the work on parallel tracks,” said Laura Batcha, president and CEO of OTA, March 20, referring on both the structure and governance of GRO Organic and prototypes of promotions and education. “It’s like jumping off the cliff and building the parachute on the way down.”

OTA is partnering with Organic Voices, a group of companies that includes a handful of fresh produce grower-shippers, and it’s not going to tread lightly.

Batcha said the undertaking hopes to make organic benefits clearer to the consumer.

“Skip all the chemicals and just go with organic,” OTA announced it its release.

“We will be very factual in the campaign on what’s prohibited, very transparent,” Batcha said, noting there are more than 700 chemicals that are prohibited from use in organic farming.

Last year OTA worked with USDA on exploring the idea of a mandatory check-off program for the organic industry, but after a public comment period, USDA ended the process.

While that means the organic industry loses the government support, it also escapes any oversight.

Todd Linsky of TLC Organic consulting, said while he’s not directly involved in the GRO Organic project, the industry needs a collective way to promote itself.

“USDA would control the message in a check-off system, and that’s not the case now,” he said. “It’s the investors, so they don’t need to have an inclusive message.”

Linsky said he fully believes organic is the future.

“I think as time goes by, in 30 years, we’ll all be 90 percent organic [food],” he said.

Batcha said the whole GRO Organic formation process will take about two years, and the comment period for “Big Ideas” ends April 30. She said leaders will look at those ideas over the summer.

But she said the industry and consumers will see the promotional campaign in 2019, maybe as soon as a few months from now.

“Skip all the chemicals” may rub conventional produce grower-shippers and marketers the wrong way, but Organic Voices states its goal very clearly in its website address:


Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services