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OPN Connect Newsletter 193 · November 19, 2020

OTA Forms New Organic Produce Council to Unite and Strengthen the Sector


The Organic Trade Association (OTA) announced this week the formation of a new Organic Produce Council that will enable members to work collaboratively on issues facing the produce sector.

Led by OTA produce members, the newly formed council is designed to build community and provide ongoing opportunities for networking, leadership development, education, and information development related exclusively to organic fresh produce. 

Black Earth Humic November

The organic produce category continues to be the star of the organic sector, making up nearly a third of all organic food sales. Organic fruits and vegetables, including fresh, frozen, canned, and dried, have now captured 15 percent of the total fruits and vegetable market in the US.

Led by OTA produce members, the newly formed council is designed to build community and provide ongoing opportunities for networking, leadership development, education, and information development related exclusively to organic fresh produce.

At the same time, many unique issues face organic produce growers, processors, and distributors alike. These wide-ranging issues include food safety, labor shortages, labeling and packaging concerns, and a changing climate. 

 

Campos Borquez November 2

Ben Diesl, VP of Quality Assurance, Grimmway Farms

“We wholeheartedly welcome the formation of this sector council and look forward to problem-solving and collaborating with our colleagues throughout the organic produce supply chain," said OTA Board Member Ben Diesl of Grimmway Farms. "The council will give OTA member companies that are involved in the organic industry an organized opportunity to benefit from the association’s expertise, to network with diverse stakeholders, and to influence the overall agenda of the association.”

Heliae November

Ricardo Crisantes, CCO, Wholesum Family Farms

Ricardo Crisantes, the CCO of Wholesum Family Farms, has been a member of the OTA for several years and likes the idea of a council devoted to organic fresh produce. “Since the organic category is so broad←from textiles, dairy, poultry, grain, and produce←I feel that the issues for organic fresh produce farmers get diluted,” he said. “Having a council will give us a place to find areas of common interest and collaboration that [focus] on real day-to-day issues. It will add value to my membership if the discussions are [focused on] to organic fresh produce.”

“We wholeheartedly welcome the formation of this sector council and look forward to problem-solving and collaborating with our colleagues throughout the organic produce supply chain.” -Ben Diesl

Ben Johnson, founder and CEO of Bridges Produce, represents organic growers from the US, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and New Zealand. “Just like in any organic farming system, by nourishing and protecting, by working collaboratively and symbiotically, we can get much better long-term results, “he said. “Working together on the OTA Produce council creates a healthier and more resilient organic produce sector which benefits us all. The analogy to the fundamental philosophy of the organic method is very clear to me.”

Chelan Fresh November

Ben Johnson, Founder and CEO, Bridges Produce

OTA Members indicated the following priorities for their engagement:

  • Amplifying the needs of the produce community within the trade association.
  • Developing and sharing information resources among those in the organic produce industry.
  • Learning about emerging regulatory issues that impact organic produce.
  • Networking with other organic produce businesses across the value chain.
  • Creating opportunities for leadership development opportunities.

“Working together on the OTA Produce council creates a healthier and more resilient organic produce sector which benefits us all. The analogy to the fundamental philosophy of the organic method is very clear to me.” – Ben Johnson

Mike Dill, food safety & compliance manager at Organically Grown Company (OGC) said the time is right to have greater emphasis on organic fresh produce. “The timing for produce to have its own Sector Council is perfect. Between the upcoming Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule which will alter how our businesses comply with organic standards, the FDA looking to tighten up traceability and record-keeping requirements, supply chain complexities and consolidation, and COVID-19 impacts, it’s easy to see why the produce sector needs OTA’s support and guidance. OGC applauds the OTA for seeing this need and reacting so quickly,” he said.

NatureSafe November

Mike Dill, food safety & compliance manager, Organically Grown Company

Larry Jacobs, founder of Jacobs Farm Del Cabo, concurred with Dill. “The organic perishable sector’s problems are challenging, unique, and dynamic in today’s changing world. OTA’s newly formed Organic Produce Council brings together a diverse group of experienced growers and distributors to address these issues. We look forward to participating,” he said.

Larry Jacobs, Founder, Jacobs Farm Del Cabo

TerraFresh November

Companies signing up for the council include Ag. Valles del Sur SpA, Awe Sum Organics, Bolthouse Farms, Bridges Organic Produce, Cal-Organic/Grimmway Farms, Charlie’s Produce, Columbia Marketing International/CMI Orchards, Duncan Family Farm, Earl’s Organic Produce, Heath & Lejeune, Homegrown Organic Farms, Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo, Munger Farms, Naturesweet, Naturipe, Organically Grown Company, Organic Produce Network, Page’s Organics, Taylor Farms, Thermiculture Management, Vitalis Organic Seeds, and Wholesum Family Farms.

The first meeting of the council is scheduled for December 8. For more information on the council, contact Johanna Mirenda at jmirenda@ota.com.

Charlies Produce November
OPN State of Organic
OGS Grower Roundtable 2020

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