Amy Wong is board chair of the Oregon Organic Coalition (OOC), a nonprofit organization that supports the organic industry and community in Oregon. OPN recently caught up with Amy to learn about OOC’s advocacy efforts and achievements, its 2022 lobbying successes, and more.
Amy Wong, Board Chair of the Oregon Organic Coalition (OOC)
Can you please describe the history and mission of OOC?
The Oregon Organic Coalition (OOC) works to advance the development and growth of the organic industry and community in Oregon. The OOC was founded by organic leaders over 15 years ago to build unified support for organic advocacy and promotion in Oregon. The OOC has brought together representatives of the organic trade as well as other stakeholders active in the organic community to provide direction, advocacy, and support for activities that promote and grow organic practices and the trade in Oregon and beyond.
Who are OOC’s members?
The OOC is fortunate to have many member-supporters, including key organic stakeholders and businesses—large and small—as well as individuals who share the values and goals of the OOC. Notable members include Organically Grown Company, Mountain Rose Herbs, Hummingbird Wholesale, Organic Valley, Oregon Tilth, and OMRI. We look forward to expanding our roster of supporters as our advocacy efforts continue.
“The OOC has brought together representatives of the organic trade as well as other stakeholders active in the organic community to provide direction, advocacy, and support for activities that promote and grow organic practices and the trade in Oregon and beyond.” -Amy Wong
What kinds of advocacy efforts does OOC engage in?
Since OOC’s inception, the organization has been a voice for Oregon’s organic community and has spearheaded efforts to showcase and celebrate the organic trade, protect organic resources and commerce, and develop public policy that supports the growth of organic and organic practices. Advocacy and education efforts have included events, legislation, grant and project endorsements, agency outreach, and participation in legislatively mandated work groups and relevant coalitions.
Gathering Together Farm, an OOC member
Some of our significant past achievements include:
- Securing funding for two Organic Extension Agents at Oregon State University’s Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems (one for vegetables and one for pastures and forages).
- Forming a legislatively mandated work group that wrote the initial draft of the Oregon Organic Action Plan, a roadmap for Oregon’s policy makers of steps to take to help support and grow organic production in the state.
- Hosting successful “Organic Grows a Better Oregon” days at the capital.
- Introducing the concept of and working to secure a Soil Health Specialist at the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
- Helping to phase out the use of Chlorpyrifos (a harmful pesticide) in Oregon.
- Aiding efforts that led to a five-year acreage cap on canola production in the Willamette Valley, which threatens the area’s lucrative vegetable specialty seed production.
Gathering Together Farm
“Since OOC’s inception, the organization has been a voice for Oregon’s organic community and has spearheaded efforts to showcase and celebrate the organic trade, protect organic resources and commerce, and develop public policy that supports the growth of organic and organic practices.” -Amy Wong
In terms of the OSU Organic Extension Agents, there was broad consensus that technical assistance to support organic vegetable production was the top priority. Oregon is lucky to have Nick Andrews leading this work. Nick has developed helpful tools like the OSU Organic Fertilizer and Cover Crop Calculators to help with organic nutrient management and Croptime degree-day models to help with crop scheduling. Some of Nick’s other ongoing projects include cover crop adoption with the Western Cover Crops Council and testing the feasibility of canine detection for organic vole management.
Nick Andrews, OSU Organic Extension Agent
OOC’s 2022 lobbying efforts led to Oregon requiring an Organic Economic Assessment and the state’s acknowledgement of organics as an "emerging sector.” How will these two achievements affect organics in Oregon?
The OOC has long known that economic data is an important piece of the advocacy puzzle, yet it is often out of financial reach for nonprofit organizations. The OOC originally included an economic assessment—a cornerstone of the initial Oregon Organic Action Plan—in a 2021 piece of legislation. While that bill ultimately didn’t pass, promoting it during the 2021 session served the important function of educating legislators about Oregon’s organic community and the economic and other benefits increasing organic production could bring to the state. These efforts laid the groundwork for an Organic Economic Assessment to be included in an “emerging sectors” end-of-session budget appropriation this year. The Oregon Business Development Department will issue an RFP shortly and select a firm to conduct the assessment.
The OOC hopes the “emerging sector” designation, along with the findings in the Organic Economic Assessment, will help marshal additional resources into promoting and growing organic acreage and production.
OOC Board Member David Lively
David Lively, longtime OOC board member and pioneer emeritus for Organically Grown Company, hopes that this work will “create a ladder of decision making—from awareness to attitude to action.” The OOC anticipates the economic assessment will deliver a comprehensive picture of the progress that organic has made in Oregon, along with a projection of the opportunities and benefits to come. The assessment will ideally also highlight gaps and barriers in Oregon’s organic sector in order to shape policy priorities and the next stages of the Oregon Organic Action Plan.
“The OOC hopes the “emerging sector” designation, along with the findings in the Organic Economic Assessment, will help marshal additional resources into promoting and growing organic acreage and production.” -Amy Wong
What are OOC’s plans for the future?
OOC is energized to continue advocacy work and is already laying the groundwork for the 2023 legislative session. This includes finding as many paths possible for securing funding for additional Organic Extension Specialists and once again protecting Willamette Valley organic vegetable seed producers from increased canola acreage. The current 500-acre cap on canola cultivation, which we helped secure in 2019, sunsets June 30, 2023, and protections need to be renewed. The OOC is also planning a farm tour (likely to include an organic hazelnut farm) for later this summer or fall and the return of “Organic Grows a Better Oregon” day at the capital, which likely will coincide with the release of the Organic Economic Assessment.