The fresh produce industry has much influence and much at stake as it considers whether to support a mandatory generic assessment on organic products.

The Organic Trade Association urges the industry to support a federal research and promotion board covering the entire organic industry, from fresh produce to meat to non-food items like clothes and cleaning products, to be financed by assessing one-tenth of 1% of net organic sales. 

The produce industry makes up about one-third of all organic sales, the largest category. It’s going to be a tough sell to producers for several reasons.

One is that many organic marketers have invested heavily in their own brands and could see their investment in generic promotion as working directly against their brands.

Another point was made by a wholesaler who said the organic industry has been growing fine without any generic promotion.

Some say it’s too broad and complex to be managed.

The organic industry’s growth is undeniable. Supporters say the organic producers should invest in themselves for improved research and communication.

The OTA points to consumer confusion as something holding the industry back.

Despite the U.S. Department of Agriculture certified organic seal, there is surprising confusion as to what organic means.

Some of that confusion even benefits organic product, as some consumers say organic is pesticide-free (it’s only free of synthetic pesticides) or healthier (no study has shown significant nutritional differences between organic and conventional).

As we are not organic fruit and vegetable producers, we won’t take a position, but it’s clear, the OTA has more work ahead in convincing the industry of the assessment benefits.

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