This past Thursday night I flew back from a jam-packed week in Washington DC. CCOF sent me to attend the Organic Trade Association’s policy week. The Organic Trade Association is a membership-based business association for the organic industry, their mission is to promote and protect organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public, and the economy.
The week started with a full day of meetings where members of the organic sector discussed the organic industry’s needs and challenges in the current organic market. There were representatives from all elements of the organic supply chain; producers, certifiers, processors, handlers, marketers, and consumers. It was amazing to hear about the work the Organic Trade Association has been doing and the continued support they want to provide to the ongoing success of organics in all sectors.
On Wednesday I had the honor of presenting a report on organics in California which included the work that CCOF is doing on the state level to connect with California policy makers. The day continued with a visit from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, where he talked about the work the USDA has been doing to improve access to organics, for example allocating $100 million dollars for research in organic agriculture.
For lunch we were served a delicious meal of organic grains and legumes, while we ate we heard from the amazing Senator Jon Tester, about the importance of organics in agriculture. Senator Tester is the only organic farmer in Congress, he told us that his family’s Montana farm is able to stay in business because it is certified organic.
Thursday was dedicated to hill visits. I met with three California representatives and Senator Feinstein’s staff. I talked with each office about how the demand for organic products is very high, but there is just not enough organic acreage to grow food to meet the demand. I explained to them, how many young farmers like myself are trained and ready to make organic farming their life-long career but can’t meet this growing demand because we do not have access to land. This fact surprised many as they were not aware of the pitfalls in obtaining long-term land access as a young first generation farmer.
I left the capital excited and hopeful because there are many people inside and outside of government working hard for a successful organic future.