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USDA to Drop Proposed Organic Checkoff
USAgNet - 05/15/2018

The USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service is set to terminate its rulemaking for the organic checkoff, stopping a process that officially began almost exactly three years ago.

Agri-Pulse reports that the order came by way of a Federal Register notice, and the termination will be effective on Tuesday. In the notice, AMS cited "uncertain industry support" and "outstanding substantive issues with the proposed program" as its reasons for termination.

"While some comments voiced support for a collective industry program, other comments stated that industry was not aligned in backing the proposal," AMS noted. Specifically, AMS pointed to concerns about eliminating organic farmers from the program, a potential disproportionate impact on high-value commodities, concerns about the voting methodology, and whether the program could exist without disparaging other commodities.

However, the Organic Trade Association thinks the department's assertion of uncertain support is "simply wrong." In a release, the group said the decision "reflects a pattern of holding back forward progress on organic by USDA" and that it "makes no sense that the agency is continuing to take steps to cut it off at the knees."

The checkoff would have been unique in that it would have served as a research and promotion arm for many different products rather than a single commodity.

With the rulemaking terminated, communication restrictions are lifted, which AMS says will allow USDA "to engage fully with all interested parties to discuss and consider the future needs of the industry."

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