Organic Trade Association
The Organic Trade Association recognises that consumers need to have confidence in the Organic products they are buying, and therefore has taken up the role of advocating, protecting and commenting on organic regulations and policy. Since its inception in 1985, the Organic Trade Association has played a significant role in the advocacy of Organic policy, shaping regulations and marketing policy for organic products in the United States. It was the Organic Trade Association that encouraged the establishment of the National Organic Program and was an important part of the development of the final rule.
Through the 1990’s consumer demand for organic products grew at a rate of 20% annually. With the full implementation of the National Organic Program in 2002, the organics industry is expected to show continued growth.
Did You Know?
- Approximately 100 countries practice organic farming with more than 59 million acres under organic management
- According to Organic Monitor, the global market for organic food and drink reached $23 billion in 2002
- 39% of the U.S population uses Organic products
- Organic products are now available in nearly 20,000 natural food stores and 73 percent of conventional grocery stores, and account for approximately 1-2 percent of total food sales in the U.S (2003)
Organic Trade Association Members
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) currently has over 1200 members and represents the organic industry in U.S as well as Canada and Mexico. Its members include organisations that grow process and ship organic foods. Retailers, certification organisations and others involved in the producing and selling of certified organic products are also members of the Organic Trade Association. Over 60% of OTA members are small businesses. For a complete list of OTA Members, please see OTA Member List
Key Functions of the OTA
The OTA undertakes significant function on behalf of its members as well for the overall promotion of organic trade. Its key areas of operation are:
- Advancing Organic Standards
Apart from playing a major role in the National Organic Program, the OTA continues to develop and refine standards for emerging product areas. The OTA sponsored the development of the American Organic Standards (AOS) – which compiles and codifies voluntary standards for the organic industry. The AOS is based on the recommendations of the National Organics Standards Board and the U.S Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and are meant to serve as OTA guidelines for the organic industry. For details please see American Organic Standards
Another major contribution of the Organic Trade Association is the development of standards in the fiber processing and textiles. The OTA has been involved in the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). These standards cover the organic textiles – their production, processing, manufacturing, packaging, labelling, export, import and distribution. For more details on this standard, please see Global Organic Textile Standard
- Promoting Transition
The OTA makes continued efforts to promote and support the transition to organic farming and processes, in order to sustain the growth in the organic industry. One of OTA’s achievements in this field is the creation of the website How To Go Organic This website organises an exhaustive list of resources for producers and processors wanting to make the transition to organic. It also provides a directory of resources in North America as well as provides information on starting an organic business. For more information, please visit their website.
- Reaching out to the public
On a larger scale, the OTA spreads the message of the benefits of organic products to the general public. Helping spread this awareness helps to expand the organic market. The OTA submits a number of press releases and events for this cause. Notably, the OTA has a media newsletter What’s News in Organic. This information flier is meant targeted towards the media generally focussing on current topics and industry news. For more details, please see What’s News in Organic Newsletter
The OTA has also started a consumer website The O’Mama Report which is full of useful tips and benefits of organic products. It also includes sections on baby and child care through organic products as well recipes for the kitchen. This website is an attempt to reach out to the general public and provide information as to how they can bring organic products into their daily lives.
- Other attempts to grow the market
The OTA recognises that to grow the organic market, the buyers and sellers of organic produce need to connect. To this end, OTA has started a membership directory of its members that is updated frequently and functions like an online market place for organic products. The OTA has also started an export directory online for international buyers wishing to source U.S organic products. For further details, please see The Organic Pages Online and Organic Export Directory Online
OTA’s notable contribution to the organic industry growth efforts is the founding of the largest business-to-business trade show for organic products and trade issues. For more information, please see All Things Organic Conference and Trade Show
- Verification of Benefits
Many standards and certification programs have been criticised for the fact that benefits from these programs cannot be verified or quantified. The OTA is working with a number of public and private organisations to scientifically research the impacts of organic products and processes.. The OTA is also a member of International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM)so it has a voice in international efforts within the organic industry.