2021 OFA Elected Leadership

The following certified organic farmers and organic farm organizations were elected to fill open seats in their region for the Governing Council or Policy Committee.  The ballot closed November 15.  Their terms begin in March 2021.  Only OFA farm members have the right to vote on OFA decisions.  OFA policy is ONE FARM, ONE VOTE.  Each farm has an equal place at the table.


Governing Council: Farmer
Judith Redmond, Full Belly Farm, Guinda, CA
Policy Committee: Farmer
Kenneth Kimes, Greensward / New Natives, LLC, Aptos, CA

MIDWEST   (Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania)                  

Governing Council: Farmer
Dave Bishop, PrairiErth Far, Atlanta, IL
Policy Committee: Farmer
Michael Adsit, Plymouth Orchards, Plymouth, MI
Policy Committee: Organization
Illinois Stewardship Alliance (ISA), Molly Gleason, Communications Director, Springfield IL

NORTH CENTRAL   (Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin)                           

Governing Council: Farmer
Mike Kelly, High Meadow Farm, Johnson Creek, WI
Governing Council: Organization
Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES): David Perkins, President, Spring Valley, WI
Policy Committee: Farmer
DeEtta Bilek, Tom & DeEtta Bilek Farm, Aldrich, MN

WEST   (Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas)                           

Governing Council: Farmer
Linley Dixon, Adobe House Farm, Durango, CO
Governing Council: Organization
Montana Organic Association (MOA): Becky Weed, Board of Directors, MT
Policy Committee: Farmer
Nathaniel Powell-Palm, Cold Springs Organics, Bozeman, MT
Policy Committee: Organization
Tilth Alliance: Melissa Spear, Executive Director, WA

SOUTH (Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa)                        

Governing Council: Farmer
Shawn Peebles, Shawn Peebles Organic Farm LLC, Augusta, AR
Policy Committee: Farmer
Laura Freeman, Mt. Folly Farm, Winchester, KY
Policy Committee: Organization
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association: Roland McReynolds, Executive Director, NC

NORTHEAST   (New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware)                          

Governing Council: Farmer
Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht, Garden of Eve Organic Farm & Market, Riverhead, NY
Governing Council: Organization
Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance: Edward Maltby, Executive Director, Deerfield, MA
Policy Committee: Farmer
Luke Gianforte, Gianforte Farm LLC, Cazenovia NY




Judith Redmond, Full Belly Farm, Guinda, CA

Bio/Statement: I have been a co-owner and farmer at Full Belly Farm since 1989. I also serve as an adviser to the California Climate and Agriculture Network, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, and as a Commissioner of the Capay Valley Volunteer Fire Department. With the diversity of livestock, produce and flowers that we raise here at Full Belly, we are constantly made aware of the importance of regulations and policy and how they strongly influence the viability and success of different kinds of

farms. People making policy and the public at-large do not understand on-the-ground challenges of farming. Through the work of OFA, organic farmers can build a stronger voice for themselves as part of reducing agriculture’s environmental footprint. Full Belly Farm is a certified organic, multi-generational farm founded in 1985. We enjoy cooking, eating, growing, harvesting and selling fruits, nuts and vegetables year-round. We also grow beautiful flowers and top off our activities caring for a herd of sheep and a flock of chickens. We make every effort to foster sustainability on many levels — from fertility in our soil and care for the environment, to creating a stable and respectful workplace for our employees. We attend farmers markets, have a CSA program and sell to many stores and wholesalers. We often invite our CSA members and customers to the farm and offer numerous events for people who want to learn more about organic agriculture and the farmers that grow their food. Through this work we hope to invigorate the agricultural economy and build the social well-being of the small communities in our Valley.


Kenneth Kimes, Greensward / New Natives, LLC, Aptos, CA

Bio/Statement:  I have been farming greenhouse microgreens year-round for over 35 years and have always farmed organically (certified since 1982) and have only ever used organic seed (90k lbs. per year). We lobby the public to promote organic continuously at the farmers markets. My wife and I run the farm with ten full-time employees and five part-time employees. I have served on the Board of Directors for the following organizations: Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) (10+ years), Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau Board (6 years), Agriculture Policy Advisory Commission (10 years), Monterrey Bay Certified Farmers Markets, Action Pajaro Valley (farmland preservation task force), Santa Cruz County GMO Commission (we banned GMO's), and was on the Board of Directors for CCOF for many years.



Dave Bishop, PrairiErth Far, Atlanta, IL

Bio/Statement:  PrairiErth is a 300-acre farm with diverse crops and livestock and has been certified organic since 2004. With my family we also run the 100- acre farm where I grew up. Over these combined 400 acres, we grow organic corn, soybeans, oats, wheat, livestock forages, vegetables, fruit, and flowers and produce organic beef, pork, eggs and honey. We sell at local farmers’ markets and to restaurants and stores and offer a vegetable CSA and winter CSA. PrairiErth Farm has been participating in research with the University of Illinois for many years. Current research is studying the impact of various cover crop mixtures on weed suppression, soil microbial activity, and field productivity. We are passionate about growing organically, a system I adopted after years of conventional farming. I view organic farming as a way to limit our ecological footprint by caring for the earth, not just for us, but for future generations. We've reduced our farm “footprint” even further by using solar-powered pasture fencing and livestock watering systems. In addition to farming, I have lobbied in DC with NSAC for organic and local food issues, both in writing the farm bill and in the appropriations process. He currently serves as President of the Illinois Food, Farms, and Jobs Council, a Governor appointed entity created to advise the Governor and the Legislature on agricultural issues.


Michael Adsit, Plymouth Orchards, Plymouth, MI

Bio/Statement: I also served as a member of the founding OFA Steering Committee. During this time, serving OFA, I have spent a significant amount of time establishing communications with other organic farmers, promoting OFA to farmer interest groups and meeting with members of the Congress and Senate on behalf of OFA. I am committing to doing everything I can to represent and further the interests of organic farmers. My farm, Plymouth Orchards, is a 120-acre organic orchard and farm. We are also a regional agri-tourism destination. The farm was originally started in 1977. We grow organic apples, raspberries, asparagus, vegetables, small grains and hay. Plymouth Orchards is also certified as a processor for organic dried apples. Vegetables are marketed through a CSA. Fruits are direct marketed and wholesale. At Plymouth Orchards, I am responsible for organic crop production and marketing.


Illinois Stewardship Alliance (ISA), Molly Gleason, Communications Director, Springfield IL

Bio/Statement:  I was raised on my family's 4th generation grain farm in Elkhart, Illinois and currently manage 63 acres of that farm. In the future, I hope to diversify our land into organic production. While my family farm does not currently use organic practices, my involvement with the farm provides a front-row seat to the issues involved with making the decision to transition to organic and all the challenges that entails, especially as it relates to generational transfer of farm management. In addition, my experience at Illinois Stewardship Alliance brings me into contact with direct-market fruit and vegetable growers on a regular basis, many of which use organic practices or who have gone through the certification process. I work with them to understand the barriers and opportunities facing local food producers, drive demand for local food, and shape and promote local food policy. I bring strong communications skills, community-organizing and coalition-building experience, and an in-depth knowledge of the food system. If elected, I would love to put these assets to work to raise the profile of organic farming, advance organic initiatives, and garner recognition for organic farming as more than a niche method of farming, but as a real and lasting solution to restore soils, feed communities, and build thriving local economies and ecosystems.  Illinois Stewardship Alliance (ISA) is a membership-based organization. We are an organization of local food producer, concerned citizen or food-systems related organization. Alliance members span the state and have one thing in common: they all care about the food that is produced and consumed in Illinois and want to support the increase of fresh, local foods.


North Central Region: GOVERNING COUNCIL 

Mike Kelly, High Meadow Farm, Johnson Creek, WI

Bio/Statement:  My family and I started a Community Supported Agriculture program in 2009, and today raise certified organic veggies, poultry and sheep on our gorgeous, well-maintained 40-acre certified organic farm with the help of farm friends, volunteers and employees. Our CSA has over 200 members, we also sell wholesale accounts, and have workplace CSA relationships with local businesses. I served on the FairShare CSA Board of Directors and currently serve as a county supervisor with Jefferson County and on the Farmers Union water committee. Prior to farming, I had a career as a utilities superintendent. I am very interested in promoting organic agriculture and do that from my work on the farm and through my position as county supervisor.


Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES): David Perkins, President, Spring Valley, WI

Bio/Statement: Educating farmers about organic and sustainable production is the foundation of our work. The cornerstone of this foundation is the annual MOSES Organic Farming Conference, the country’s largest conference on organic and sustainable farming, which draws 3,000+ people each February to La Crosse, Wis. We also educate farmers about specific farming practices through MOSES Organic Field Days and the MOSES Organic Answer Line. We manage several projects to support and empower organic farmers: Farmer-to-Farmer Mentoring Program, New Organic Stewards program, and our Rural Women’s Project. We also advocate for national policies that encourage organic production.

David Perkins currently serves as President of MOSES. David returned to his rural roots in 1994 to create Vermont Valley Community Farm located in southern Wisconsin. After a wonderfully successful 24 years of connecting thousands of people to their food, the CSA was retired in 2018. The farm continues its organic seed potato business. Committed to nurturing more CSA farms, David has spoken across the country on CSA, organic vegetable production and financial management. Certified organic since 1999, David is passionate about organic. He is the current Board President of Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services (MOSES) and served on the FairShare CSA Coalition Board, the Organic Farmers Association Board, and the UW- Madison Center for Integrated Agriculture Systems council.

North Central Region: POLICY COMMITTEE 

DeEtta Bilek, Tom & DeEtta Bilek Farm, Aldrich, MN

Bio/Statement:  My husband and I have owned and operated our 220-acre farm since 1977. We have been certified organic since 1998. On the farm we have crop production, graze beef cattle, and maintain forest. My primary role on the farm is the paperwork and help with overall management. My past experience with farm policy includes several opportunities to testify at Minnesota Legislature hearings and meetings with individual policy makers to share organic and sustainable agriculture information from a farmer perspective. I have attended two NOSB meetings and presented on behalf of OCIA International. At that time, I was a Board member and served one year as President of the Board. From 1997 - 2003, I was Program Manager for the Sustainable Farm Association of MN. From 2004 - 2016, I was Chair for the MN OCIA Chapter's Education Committee. I have also served on the MISA Certification Board of Directors and have participated on the Land Stewardship's Federal Farm Policy Committee.



Linley Dixon, Adobe House Farm, Durango, CO

Bio/Statement: Starting on rented land, over the past 10 years, our family has worked hard to build our farm business and finally purchase a farm on which we can live and continue to grow. This experience has exposed me to the challenges new organic farmers face to get started and succeed. I have a Masters in Plant and Soil Science and a PhD in Plant Pathology. My hope is that OFA can help ensure that USDA organic standards and enforcement continues to represent the values of the organic community and the way the vast majority of us farm, that is with the responsibility to maintain healthy soil and pasture. For the past ten years, we have farmed 3 acres of vegetables intensively in Durango, CO, with a prime focus on soil health. We direct market to local restaurants, SWFF Local Distribution Cooperative, James Ranch, and the Durango Farmers Market. Our specialties are soil-grown greenhouse tomatoes, salad greens, peppers and strawberries. Daily operations are managed by my husband, Peter Dixon, and brother, Reid Smith. I am the associate director of the Real Organic Project by day and tomato pruner extraordinaire by night.


Montana Organic Association (MOA): Becky Weed, Board of Directors, MT

Bio/Statement: Montana Organic Association currently serves on the OFA Governing Council and will serve another term. Becky currently represents Montana Organic Association on the Governing Council and would like to serve another two-year term. Since 2002, The Montana Organic Association has been the voice of Montana's organic community. MOA believes that the organic movement is the one best hope for keeping small family farms viable while providing clean, nutritious, and safe food to the community; helping secure our food system by supporting farm diversity; and contributing to a healthier environment which helps protect our precious wildlife and natural resources. MOA's mission is to advocate and promote organic agriculture for the highest good of the people, the environment and the state's economy.

Becky Weed and her husband Dave Tyler have owned and operated Thirteen Mile Farm in Southwest Montana for thirty years (certified since 1999). They primarily run a certified organic grassfed sheep flock, although their operation has included a wool processing mill (2003-2017), as well as grassfed organic cattle and small-scale commercial vegetables intermittently. One of Becky’s employees is purchasing and continuing the wool mill, opening up time for Becky to return her focus more fully to her land, integrating crops and livestock, and to agriculture more broadly. Becky has served on the Montana Board of Livestock, and the boards of the Wild Farm Alliance, People and Carnivores, and has recently joined the board of the Montana Organic Association. She also served on the Conservation & Science Board of a very large ranch operation in Central Idaho, Lava Lake Land & Livestock, continuing her lifelong interest in the interface of agriculture and conservation. Before becoming involved in agriculture, Becky worked for more than ten years as a geologist with degrees in the Geological Sciences from Harvard (B.A.) and University of Maine (M.S.). That mixed background in research in some of the wildest places on earth, along with hazardous waste cleanup in some extremely urban locations continue to influence Becky’s perceptions and hopes for agriculture.


Nathaniel Powell-Palm, Cold Springs Organics, Bozeman, MT

Bio/Statement: I am a certified organic grain and beef cattle producer located in Bozeman, MT. As a first-generation farmer and rancher, I started my operation in 2004 and received organic certification in 2008. From my original leased 10 acres in 2004 my operation today consists of 875 acres on which I produce organic small grains and grass finished beef cattle. In addition to my farm, I work as an IOIA trained independent organic inspector. Currently contracted with 6 Accredited Certifying Agencies, I inspect approximately 225 operations per year. I have inspected organic operations to the NOP standard in 36 states for all three scopes (crops, livestock, and processing). I hold a BS in Environmental Science, with a focus on soil and water resources from Montana State University. My training as an agronomy researcher and my research history in soil chemistry has allowed me to hone a strong analytical skill set directly related to organic production agriculture. I believe my 9 years as a certified organic beef and grain producer has equipped me with significant technical expertise in organic production. My experience as an organic inspector has allowed me to examine operations and listen to the concerns of organic producers in every region of the country. If selected to serve on the Governing Council, I would bring both my expertise as a producer and broad experience as an organic inspector to my work with the OFA. Lastly, as a young farmer, I have experienced firsthand the challenges of starting a successful farming business and have spent most of my time farming certified organic. As the organic production community expands to include more and more young growers, I will bring a viewpoint and understanding to my work with the OFA that will align closely with a quick growing sector of the industry.


Tilth Alliance: Melissa Spear, Executive Director, WA

Bio/Statement: Tilth Alliance works in community with Washington's farmers, gardeners and eaters for a more sustainable, healthy and equitable food future. Our strategic priorities include advancing organic, regenerative, and sustainable growing practices, to increase demand for healthy food grown in Washington using organic, regenerative and sustainable growing practices, and to raise awareness of the critical relationship between food production and climate change. Our membership base is composed primarily of certified organic farmers. We serve our base through advocacy at the state and county level, by providing training opportunities, by directly connecting organic farmers to consumers through the Washington Farm and Food Finder, and by producing an annual conference where organic farmers from Washington can convene to learn, network and socialize.

Melissa Spear has worked at the intersection of conservation and agriculture for the past 15 years. She started out at The Trust for Public Land, successfully protecting several iconic farms in Connecticut. She then spent 9 years as Executive Director of a non-profit organic urban farm and environmental education center serving the city of New Haven, CT. She served as the vice-chair of the Working Lands Alliance in Connecticut, an advocacy organization working to ensure farming remained a viable enterprise in the state. She moved to Seattle and became Executive Director of Tilth Alliance in 2018 where her focus is squarely on promoting and supporting the adoption of organic practices. Under her leadership, Tilth Alliance is leading the formation of a Coalition for Organic and Regenerative Agriculture that will advocate for organic farmers and farming practices both here in Washington and in Washington D.C.



Shawn Peebles, Shawn Peebles Organic Farm LLC, Augusta, AR

Bio/Statement: Our farm is solely organic. I am a third-generation farmer. I started farming early with my dad and branched out on my own about 20 years ago. I switched to organic farming in 2009. We farm approximately 1500 acres. We grow sweet potatoes, edamame, black eye peas, soybeans, and corn. We find it exciting to find new crops to grow and diversify more each year. I handle some of each aspect that goes into a farming operation. I am hands on and fully involved in each decision that goes into the operation. I am currently serving on the USDA's Specialty Crop Committee. I have also served on a dicamba specialty task force. I enjoy speaking at meetings and conventions to share my knowledge and experience with others. I think organic farming is the future and want to see it grow. I will stand tall for my beliefs and advocate for what I believe in.

Southern Region: POLICY COMMITTEE 

Laura Freeman, Mt. Folly Farm, Winchester, KY

Bio/Statement: I own and run Mt. Folly Farm. Mt. Folly includes 1250 acres of pasture, timber, and crop land. About 70% of our crop and hay land is certified organic, making 290 organic acres and one organic high tunnel. I own and run the farm and have since 1982. I am also currently working to certify our cattle. I am also a climate change activist and farm entrepreneur, especially focused on hemp and heritage grains. Our farm is located in Kentucky, which has a nascent organic farming movement, so we are early adopters. Our core group is under 40, representing the future of farming. We are spreading the value of organics in the region by hosting multiple field days each year and connecting with our elected officials--introducing them to organic farming.


Carolina Farm Stewardship Association: Roland McReynolds, Executive Director, NC

Bio/Statement: The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) is a farmer-driven, membership-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that helps people in North and South Carolina grow and eat local, organic food by advocating for fair farm and food policies, building systems that family farms need to thrive, and educating communities about local, organic agriculture. Founded in 1979, CFSA is the oldest and largest sustainable agriculture organization in the Southeast. We provide training and technical assistance to farmers on organic farming practices, including: consulting on organic high tunnel production of specialty crops; providing NRCS TSP services for farmers seeking CAP-138 plans (supporting organic transition); hosting numerous workshops throughout the year; running the only organic certified incubator farm in the Southeast, Lomax Farm in Concord, NC; conducting research on organic vegetable production practices at Lomax Farm and other farms; and hosting two annual conferences for organic farmers. We also conduct extensive policy advocacy on issues of importance to organic farmers in North and South Carolina, at the state and federal levels.

Roland Reynolds is an attorney and has served as the Executive Director of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) for almost 14 years. His experience in the areas of environmental and agricultural law gives him a thorough understanding of the regulatory issues related to natural resource conservation in agriculture. He has led CFSA’s government relations activities on behalf of sustainable agriculture stakeholders, served on a variety of state and national boards and committees, and provided information to state and federal elected and administrative officials. In his work on the USDA’s Fruit & Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee, Reynolds led the committee to unanimously call for increased USDA funding for public plant breeding programs, which is a high priority of the organic community. He is effective at resolving conflicts; influencing government agencies, businesses and industry organizations; and establishing and strengthening working relationships with outside entities. Reynolds has built bridges with ‘conventional’ farmers and farm organizations, and has strengthened CFSA’s relationships with colleges and land grant universities in the Carolinas, serving on a number of departmental and college-level advisory boards and helping those institutions better serve the region’s organic producers and the goals of environmental stewardship in agriculture.


Northeast Region: GOVERNING COUNCIL 

Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht, Garden of Eve Organic Farm & Market, Riverhead, NY

Bio/Statement: Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht and her husband Chris founded Garden of Eve organic farm in 2001, dedicated to providing delicious organic vegetables, fruits and beautiful flowers and to “making changes in the world by living them.” Invited to sell some extra produce from their garden (zucchini!) at a local farmers market they made $40 and were launched on their farming career. In the 20 years since then, they have expanded and now grow 60 acres of certified organic vegetables, flowers, raise 1500 pastured laying hens, and oversee a team of 20 at the height of the season. Garden of Eve sells produce through a large on-farm Market, 3 farmers markets, and nearly 1,000 households participating in their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs at 20 locations in New York City and on Long Island. Eve holds a BA from Harvard in Environmental Science and a MS in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She has also worked as a land preservation advocate with the North Fork Environmental Council and as Principal Planner for the Town of Southampton. In Eve's over 20 years of operating a family-scale organic farm, She has been constantly challenged to overcome the innumerable challenges that farmers face, as well as the ways that the chemical farming industry overrides the interests of real farmers in national policy. She is a longtime supporter of several OG watchdog groups and has seen how "Big Food" continues to try to water down the organic standards that the rest of us work so hard to uphold. She is well qualified for the OFA Governing Council with her skills in advocacy and lobbying, through her longtime involvement in land planning and farmland preservation on the North Fork of Long Island. She has worked with groups both inside and outside of local government to help secure the preservation of large tracts of vulnerable land including what became the Hallock State Park; North Fork County Park, and farmland that has now been preserved for perpetuity through Purchase of Development Rights.


Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance: Edward Maltby, Executive Director, Deerfield, MA

Bio/Statement: Ed Maltby served on the founding OFA Steering Committee and Advisory Committee. NODPA started in 2001 and is the largest grassroots organization of organic dairy producers. It has remained true to its original goal of advocating on behalf of producers, regardless of who they sell their milk to, for a sustainable pay price plus protect the integrity of the USDA Organic regulations. NODPA is governed by organic dairy producers who meet regularly by conference call and annually in-person as either Board members or State Representatives. NODPA has a very active and committed Board and team of State Representatives that work together with NODPA staff to fulfill the mission of the organization. NODPA Bylaws protect the integrity of the organization and ensure that organic dairy producers control the association rather than any one brand, advocacy group or individual. NODPA represents organic dairy producers in the east of the country and has an active involvement with its sister organizations in the Midwest and the west which ensures that it can always remain connected to and controlled by its members.

Ed Maltby is a producer with over 45 years of experience managing conventional and organic dairy, beef, sheep and vegetable enterprises on a variety of different farms in Europe and the United States. For the past 20 years, Ed has worked with regional farms to cooperatively market their products into mainstream markets, ranging from direct marketing of lambs and organic produce, to establishing a cooperative of dairy farmers who direct market their own brand of milk in Western Massachusetts. Since 2005, Ed has worked as Executive Director of NODPA. He also developed a national umbrella organization, Federation of Organic Dairy Farmers (FOOD Farmers), to provide a national voice for organic dairy family farms. Ed served on the USDA Dairy Industry Advisory Committee to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on dairy policy. In 2006 when one of the last two remaining USDA slaughterhouses in MA was destroyed by fire, Ed worked with the family-owned Adams Farm Slaughterhouse to rebuild. The plant opened in November 2008 and in March 2009 Ed was asked to provide management assistance which later turned into a contract as General Manager.

Northeast Region: POLICY COMMITTEE 

Luke Gianforte, Gianforte Farm LLC, Cazenovia NY

Bio/Statement:  Gianforte Farm has been certified organic since 1998 and currently operates 600 acres of grains and row crops in Upstate New York. The farm currently grows small grains for the food grade market as well as corn, soybeans, and dry beans. I returned to the farm in 2014 after graduating from Cornell University and serve as the managing partner. Since returning to the farm, I have focused on adopting new technology relevant to organic agriculture and developing new markets for the farm's products. In 2016, Gianforte Farm won the Conservation Farm of the Year through the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District.

I was raised on my family's farm that started transiting to organic when I was five years old. I always had a deep passion for agriculture and knew I wanted to be a farmer. After high school I attend Cornell University where I had the chance to visit and learn about all types of farms all over the world. After graduation I returned home to the farm full time. I have been active in the local agricultural community through serving on the FSA County Committee and on the board of a non-profit which serves the refugee community through agriculture. I am also currently in the LEAD-NY agricultural leadership development program which has already proven to be a strong networking and personal development opportunity. As a young farmer I believe it is critical to be actively involved in the conversations regarding agricultural practices and policy decisions, especially when it comes to the Organic program. Agriculture is constantly changing, and as organic producers we need to ensure the intentions of the Organic label remain sound while continuing to move forward. Consumers are facing more food choices than ever before, making it more critical than ever to preserve the meaning of the Organic label.

Bringing Equity to Organic

November 2020

National Organic Standards Board member and First Nations leader examines how certifying Grower Groups, and other changes, could increase both black, indigenous, and people of color farmers and consumers

By A-dae Romero-Briones        Photographs by Joan Cusick Photography

Tribal Nations have grown food systems for millennia. In deserts. Along coastal and inland waterways. In low mountains. In high mountains. And in some of our most fertile and infertile lands across this country. Today, despite massive loss of land (which, ironically, some of which is certified organic farmland now), loss of animal and plant diversity, and limitations on access to traditional hunting and gathering grounds—Indigenous people continue to grow their food systems. And yet, we see few in the organic community. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color makeup nearly one-quarter of the population—but operate only 5% of farms nationwide. The USDA’s organic integrity database, with approximately 19,400 U.S. farm certifications, lists less than ten Tribal farm organic certifications. In the 2012 Agricultural census, 95.42% of all organic farms were white-owned and operated. Presently, we see the disruptions of societal institutions that have been created or implemented to serve primarily the white community, and so we should also evaluate who the organic community is serving and how.

Admittedly, the organic community is but a small part of a larger national, and global, food system that has insidious roots in the exploitation of BIPOC communities—Black, Brown, and Indigenous with little distinction. In 2020, we should be well aware of those historical wrongs, or at the very least, be observing the mass protests and toppling of historical markers that glorify these wrongs, essentially creating a status quo that serves but a fraction of our society. In many ways, the organic movement has always challenged the establishment. The organic movement has deep roots in combating extractive capitalism and corporate domination of our food system, lands, and rural community. We are the people’s food system; the alternative to chemical farming and mass production that leads to exploitative practice. In the organic community, we do purport to know and do better, be more responsive, be more inclusive and better food (and lifestyle) choice for consumers and society. But are we?

First, when I speak of organic, I am referring to the little green label that designates a product as grown and produced according to practices sanctioned under the USDA National Organic Program. To many in the organic community, organics is much more than that. It is a lifestyle. It is a promise and a representation of what our food world should be. While I agree we are much more than our labels, it is clear we are limited by them. As much as we want to extend our organic relationship to society, it is in fact a market—subject to market forces, communicates (and deviates) through price variations, and is regulated (protected by those within the market and government actors who recognize the market).  The limitations and weaknesses of our capitalist markets are embodied even in organics. We are only as strong as our roots—which in the organic case includes exploitation, exclusion, and an undercurrent of hyper-individualism. All markers of the dominant American retail food system.

In accordance with market values, organic certification is aimed at individual landowners. In dominant food systems, this individual landownership is extended to corporations recognized as persons. Even the most basic of understandings of agriculture and food systems begins with inequality—land ownership. Discussions in the organic world revolve around the practices of individual farmers, their certifications and inspections, and their place in the organic marketplace.

From 2012 to 2014, white people comprised over 97 percent of non-farming landowners, 96 percent of owner-operators, and 86 percent of tenant operators. They also generated 98 percent of all farm-related income from land ownership and 97 percent of the income that comes from operating farms. Organic farming is almost a mirror reflection of the mainstream food system in organic farm ownership and operation. As a result, conversations in the organic community are centered on the understandings of white landowners and their understandings of their landholdings, farming practices, and an anthropocentric worldview. Yet, human dominion over land is the pedagogical base that is failing us and our environment. How do we become an organic community that is inclusive, responsive, and in a better relationship with our environment, given the limitation of capitalism?

In the organic world, we often think about our food system in binary conversations—organic agriculture and conventional agriculture. Yet, there are many communities, people, consumers, and producers, who are systematically omitted from each of those conversations, intentionally and unintentionally.

On the consumer side, there are conflicting studies on who eats more organic food. But, in a study of organic consumers, the Economic Research Service of the USDA reported that African American households are less likely than Caucasian households to buy organic. Additionally, one of the primary consumer considerations in the purchase of organic products was the percentage of household income spent on food. Households with lower incomes were least likely to buy organic products. Considering that many federal feeding programs, such as the commodity supplemental food program which serves seniors, the WIC Program (Women, Infant and Children), or the summer lunch program, serve households with lower incomes, organic produce should be offered in these programs allowing access to households with lower incomes. Currently, organic products are not eligible for federal procurement in many institutional programs, effectively excluding access to the organic community by virtue of income—often excluding Black, Brown, or Indigenous people. In short, organic consumer is most likely white.

When we think about what is required for organic certification—from the certificates that give an individual person dominion over their plot of land, to the application for paperwork that begins the process of certification, to the markets where these products are sold, and even the consumer who seeks out the little green seal at that market—we are operating in a food supply chain that is leaving out large groups of people in this country and serves a privileged few. I count myself as one of those privileged. How can we change this? How do we increase the number of Black, Brown, and Indigenous organic producers and consumers? Perhaps, most importantly, why is this important?

One, the organic community has its roots in challenging the status quo. Without the will and breadth of organic leaders like J.I. Rodale challenging nationally accepted industrial production systems, and many others who lend their time and fight for organic, we would not have an alternative to corporate agriculture. Imagine lending that same fight and passion to challenging the tenure, thereby, roots of the anthropocentric agriculture altogether. This means lending time and passion to critically examining land ownership, its benefits to both conventional and organic agriculture, and the continued exclusion of Indigenous, Brown, and Black people owning land. In conversation with a farmer in Appalachia, she said, “If you only hang out with people who agree with you, you’re never going to grow as a person or a farmer.” Similarly, if we are a nation or community of white landowners we can’t really expect for organic agriculture to reach more than just our small community of organic advocates.

Second, infrastructure directed at marginalized communities is needed to participate in our existing organic system. Grower group certification (included in the most recent USDA rule, Strengthening Organic Enforcement) would create a path to infrastructure development for not only many Indigenous/Tribal growers but for marginalized small-scale growers. Grower groups are meant to create centralized management, marketing, and inspection systems for smaller groups of growers that have geographic proximity and uniformity of product. Appalachian Harvest, based in Duffield, Virginia, is one of the only certified organic growing groups in the United States. With no prohibition on grower group certification within the U.S., domestic organic certifiers site lack of guidance on applicability to livestock or produce, limitations of the number of growers within the group, and inspection expectation of grower members as some of the reasons there is a reluctance to certify grower groups. A focus or willingness from one certifier to embark on more grower group certification in the United States could carry this conversation and certification into marginalized communities—expanding the reach, and hopefully, diversity of organic growers. The conversations and infrastructure development in marginalized communities with producers is not easy, but then again, those who find themselves in the organic community understand any action worth undertaking takes care, time, and a whole lot of work.

It is these values that have called us all in some way to improve our homes, our bodies, and our relationships through the organic movement. We constantly argue for the betterment of the land, biodiversity, and community (microbial, animal, and human). While we want to talk about the microbial communities that make up healthy soil and determine what chemicals are weakening and killing the beneficial communities, we are shy to talk about who ultimately owns the land, how those land deeds begin in the first place, and why the organic community remains largely white. If we value biodiversity, we should be a reflection of that in our own meetings and conversations, in our own certified operations, and human community. If we want to expand the reach and breadth of the organic movement, we must start by including those who have been systematically left out.

A-dae Romero- Briones (Kiowa/Cochiti), JD, LLM was born and raised in Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico and comes from the Ware Family from Hog Creek, Oklahoma on the Kiowa side. Mrs. Romero-Briones works as Director of Programs-Native food and Agricultural Program for First Nations Development Institute.


Dettman, Rachel (2008). Organic Produce and Who is Eating it? A Demographic Profile of the Organic Consumer. Can be accessed here: file:///C:/Users/abriones/Downloads/467595.pdf
Horst, Megan (2019). How Racism Has Shaped the US Farming Landscape. Can be accessed here: https://www.eater.com/2019/1/25/18197352/american-farming-racism-us-agriculture-history
Union of Concerned Scientists (USC) and HEAL Food Alliance (2020). Leveling the Fields: Creating Farming Opportunities for Black People, Indigenous People and Other People of Color.

This article was written for New Farm Magazine, the magazine of the Organic Farmers Association.  All OFA Members receive a complimentary issue of New Farm annually.  Join Today!

November Policy Update

By, Patty Lovera, Policy Director

November 2020

Election 2020: What It Means for Organic

It probably shouldn’t surprise us that in 2020, like everything else, the election did not follow the normal routine. While there are still some results that are not yet clear and some ongoing recounts, as of the afternoon on November 11th, here is what we know so far about the what the election means for organic policy.

Transition to a Biden Administration – It looks likely that in 2021 we will be dealing with a Biden administration. Which means that many jobs at USDA will be filled with new people that influence the organic program, including the Secretary of Agriculture, the Under Secretary of Marketing and Regulatory Affairs, and the Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service. It will likely be later in the fall before we know for sure who the new administration is nominating for these roles. But there will be lots of scuttlebutt and speculation about potential choices leading up to the actual announcements.

The OFA policy committee is drafting a list of recommendations to the “transition team” being assembled to guide the new administration’s arrival at the USDA. We will urge them to prioritize enforcement of existing organic standards (and oversight of how certifiers interpret the standards) and finishing up the regulations we need to make the standards better, including the Origin of Organic Livestock (OOL) rule, the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) rule, and the Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) rule.

Transition to a New Congress – There will be a lot of changes for agriculture in the new Congress. In the House, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), the long-running top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, lost his race for reelection. That means we will have a different chair of the House Agriculture Committee next year. The top contenders at this point are Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), and Rep. David Scott (D-GA). The top Republican on the committee will also be changing because the current ranking member Rep. Conaway (R-TX) is retiring at the end of this Congress. The contenders for ranking member are Rep. G.T. Thompson (R-PA), Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), and Rep. Crawford (R-AR.) We should know more about the leadership of the House Agriculture Committee later in the year. First, the members of the House caucuses (Democrats and Republicans) will hold leadership elections in mid-November. Committee chairs and membership of committees will start to shake out after those leadership elections.

We may need to wait longer to know who will control things on the Senate side. Two open Senate seats in Georgia will go to a runoff election in January (because no candidate exceeded 50 percent of the vote.)  The outcome of these races will determine which party controls the Senate (and therefore which party chairs committees.) Both parties will likely prepare their lists of who will serve on and chair committees, but it may take longer to be official if we need to wait for those runoff elections to determine the control of the Senate. If the Democrats control the Senate, it is expected that Sen. Stabenow (D-MI) will be the chair. Because Sen. Roberts (R-KS), the current chair, is retiring at the end of this Congress, there will be a change in the top Republican on the committee, most likely Sen. Boozman (R-AR).

National Organic Standards Board Fall Meeting

The USDA’s National Organic Standards Board held its fall meeting online during the last week of October. The meeting had a very ambitious agenda and the board took over 70 votes, primarily about whether specific materials would be allowed for use by organic operations. The transcript and list of votes from the meeting will eventually be posted on USDA’s website here.  Here are a couple of highlights:

Paper Pots:  The board has for several meetings discussed paper-based crop planting aids, which includes paper pots as well as seed tape and other paper-based products like cloches. Many farmers have urged the board to figure out a way to set standards for paper pots that allow them to continue to be used by organic farms, while addressing concerns about the source of paper and the chemical components of adhesives. In our comments, OFA urged the board to move forward with a recommendation to allow paper pots. The board discussed a proposal from the crops subcommittee and voted to send the proposal back to the subcommittee for more work to address concerns about whether new requirements for the source of the paper and adhesive will be feasible for materials reviewers to evaluate. The board does seem to understand that many small farms depend on paper pots and is working to craft a recommendation that will set clear standards that will allow them to continue to be used.

Fenbendazole: The board considered a proposal to allow the emergency use of a parasiticide called fenbendazole for laying hens. In our comments, OFA urged the board not to approve this recommendation, based on concerns about residue levels remaining in the eggs laid by treated hens, the absence of a clear definition of what defines an emergency, and how allowing this drug is compatible with good management practices that provide adequate outdoor access for birds. The board had a robust discussion about this drug and ultimately voted against allowing it for emergency use in laying hens.

Ammonia Extract: Another hot topic was ammonia extract. The board was considering a petition seeking a prohibition on non-synthetic ammonia extract. Both synthetic and naturally-derived (non-synthetic) forms of ammonia can be used as a nitrogen fertilizer, and while synthetic ammonia is prohibited for organic use, non-synthetic sources of ammonia are not explicitly prohibited by the organic regulations. The petition expressed concerns about the impact of ammonia extracts on soil health and suggested that it was not feasible to determine whether ammonia extracts were derived from synthetic (prohibited) or non-synthetic (not explicitly prohibited) processes. This topic received a lot of discussion, during both public comments and the board meeting, covering soil health and the various production processes for ammonia extract. We would like to hear from OFA members about whether they use ammonia extract on their operations. You can weigh in on our 2021 policy priorities survey here.

EPA List 4 “Inert” Ingredients: Another complicated topic the board tackled is how the organic standards should treat the synthetic ingredients contained in many organic inputs -- commonly referred to as “inert” ingredients. So-called “inert” ingredients are not typically disclosed on product labels and are added to provide some function or improved effectiveness for the active ingredients in a formulation – such as chemicals added to pesticides to make them more soluble or extend their shelf-life. The problem is that the organic standards have relied on a list from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine which of these ingredients were allowed in formulations approved for organic. But the EPA stopped maintaining this list in 2004 and there are growing concerns that some of the chemicals on this list are more hazardous than previously known. Many organic certifiers and others have raised concerns that prohibiting these ingredients without an orderly process to identify replacements will abruptly remove product formulations currently being used by organic operations. The board members and the NOP staff had a very detailed and thoughtful discussion about this issue, and there is widespread agreement that there is an urgent need to find a new process to review and approve these materials without disrupting organic operations. The board did approve relisting this list of materials as allowed synthetics for 5 more years (through the sunset review process). But they also passed a resolution urging the NOP to come up with a new system for evaluating these materials in a way that addresses health concerns but also minimizes disruption for organic operations.

Origin of Organic Livestock Rule

Unfortunately, another update at the NOSB meeting delivered some very frustrating news about the status of the long-delayed origin of organic livestock rulemaking. Earlier this summer, the National Organic Program missed a deadline set by Congress to finalize a rule about how livestock are transitioned into organic production. Congress set a deadline of mid-June for NOP to finish this rule in the 2020 appropriations (spending) bill for USDA.

Unfortunately, the NOP not only failed to meet that deadline, but explained that they believe there are significant problems with the proposed rule they have been working on since 2015 that need to be addressed before they can finish it. At the NOSB meeting in late October, NOP announced that they plan to write a new proposed rule, rather than adapt the 2015 version.

OFA is going to continue to push NOP to finish this process as quickly – but completely – as possible. We need an origin of livestock rule which the agency actually enforces, to create a level playing field for all organic dairy producers and close the loopholes in existing regulations that are being exploited by large operations.

Organic Certification Cost-Share

OFA continues to advocate for restoring the funding for the organic certification cost-share program. This summer, the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced that due to an unexpected shortfall in funding they were lowering the reimbursement rate to 50 percent of the certified organic operation’s eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $500 per scope. This is reduced from a rate of 75 percent of the certified organic operation’s eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $750 per scope in previous years (and the level that was specified for this program in the last Farm Bill.)

Congress’ failure to pass new spending bills on time (the new fiscal year for the federal government started on October 1st) means that the federal government is currently running under an extension of last year’s budget. This makes it more complicated to quickly get Congress to provide more funding for the cost-share program. But we are going to keep working to try to get the reimbursement level restored. In the meantime, it does help for members of Congress to hear from organic farmers about why the cost share program is important. You can find out how to take action on cost-share here.

Covid-19 Program – December Deadline

On September 21st, the USDA started accepting applications for the second round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which is the program to give direct payments to farms impacted by the pandemic. This round has different rules for which crops and farms are eligible for payments, which are an improvement over the first round (which did not really address the needs of most organic farmers.) We have more detail on the second round of CFAP here. The application period ends on December 11th. Even if the first round did not make sense for your farm, it may be worth it to check out the new requirements to see if this new round is a better fit.

Public Testimony to NOSB - Oct 2020

RE: General Comments to the NOSB via Webinar Testimony

October 20, 2020
Patty Lovera, Policy Director

My name is Patty Lovera and I am the policy director for the Organic Farmers Association. Today I am going to talk about several topics impacting organic farmers that the NOP is considering and on Thursday, OFA’s director will comment on several specific issues on the NOSB’s agenda.

Organic Certification Cost Share

OFA members are upset about the decision by the Farm Services Agency to cut 2020 reimbursement levels for the organic certification cost share program. We understand that the NOP and AMS no longer administer this program. But we urge the NOP to reach out to FSA to try to better understand how this happened and how to prevent it in the future.


We were disappointed that the NOP did not meet the deadline set by Congress for finalizing a rule on origin of organic livestock. We urge the NOP to work quickly to address this longstanding gap in the organic standards and level the playing field for organic dairy farms.  And we hope to hear an update on the status of the rulemaking at the meeting next week.

Container and Greenhouse Operations

OFA continues to be concerned about inconsistent enforcement of the three-year transition after the use of a prohibited substance. The memo from the NOP in 2019 left many questions unanswered.

This summer, OFA, the National Organic Coalition and the Accredited Certifiers Association conducted a survey of USDA-accredited certification agencies to assess how certifiers interpret the standards for transition within greenhouse, hoop house, hydroponic and indoor operations. Thirty-four certification agencies responded, and their responses indicate a wide range of interpretations about how long these operations must wait after the application of a prohibited substance.

We are encouraged that the ACA working group is focused on this issue, and we urge the NOP to work collaboratively with the ACA and provide clarity on this question as soon as possible.

Strengthening Organic Enforcement – Grower Groups

OFA is aware that there are successful and well-run grower group networks around the world that provide a viable way for small producers to participate in the organic market. But we believe this issue deserves a more thorough conversation among the entire organic community on how to strike the proper balance between allowing this unique system and reducing the potential for violations of the organic standards or unfair economic conditions for growers. The best place to have this discussion is the NOSB. Therefore, we suggest taking the grower group section out of the proposed rule so this consideration can happen without delaying the rest of the proposed rule, which needs to be implemented as soon as possible.


RE: General Comments to the NOSB via Webinar Testimony

October 22, 2020
Kate Mendenhall, Director

Thank you, members of the NOSB for the opportunity to speak before you today.  My name is Kate Mendenhall, I am the director of the Organic Farmers Association and am also an Iowa organic farmer.  OFA was created to be a strong voice and advocate for certified organic farmers.  We are led and controlled by domestic certified organic farmers and only certified organic farmers determine our policies.

Organic integrity continues to be the top priority of U.S. certified organic farmers.  The NOSB in partnership with the NOP plays a crucial role in ensuring that the national standards uphold high organic integrity.  My comments today focus on four areas on your agenda:

Paper Pots

OFA has testified numerous times on the importance of this resource to small organic growers.  We support the NOSB process and agree with the Crop Subcommittee’s assessment and support for paper-pots as an allowable synthetic and defined planting aid.  The pandemic has made clear that communities need more small to mid-size organic farmers.   Paper pots help organic farmers and are in line with already-approved inputs.  Thank you to the subcommittee for your work on this and to the NOP for allowing the necessary continued discussion.

Biodegradable Mulch

OFA received a proposal in our 2020 annual policy development process last winter to take a position on biodegradable mulch, but the proposal did not receive any farmer support to take it forward to a vote.  With that knowledge, to answer your question: Is the availability of biodegradable mulch a make-or-break situation for the viability of farmers’ organic systems? We would answer no, as it was NOT a farmer priority.  We recommend continuing with the current annotation with no change and adding it as a research priority--focusing NOSB time on more pressing organic policy priorities. Biodegradable mulch seems like an urgent issue for a few large growers, but this priority is not shared by the nations’ 19,000 organic farmers.

Whey Protein

We support the subcommittee’s vote to remove whey protein concentrate from §205.606 of the National List.  It is always exciting when the organic community can fulfill our own organic demand.  Go dairy!


OFA opposes the subcommittee motion to amend the listing for fenbendazole. We are concerned this amendment would allow prophylactic use of a parasiticide that is a synthetic band-aid on an animal management problem.  There is no national need for fenbendazole, rather the requests are coming from a handful of large chicken houses.  The problem should be addressed “organically” with the health of the birds and eggs as the focus.   This amendment would also allow a synthetic residue in an organic food product, which would reduce the integrity of the organic label and consumer trust.  Why would we put more burden on that already fragile organic problem?  Fenbendazole should be left alone.

I appreciate all of your dedication to working for the full organic community, for hearing public comment this week, and for the farmers on the board especially, those who have carved out time during a busy harvest to represent organic farmers’ interest in a strong organic label.  Thank you to the outgoing NOSB farmer members Emily and  Jessie for your five years of service.

NOSB Farmer Member Profile: Emily Oakley

October 2020

Emily Oakley from Three Springs Farm in Oaks, Oklahoma is finishing her five-year term on the National Organic Standards Board this month.  She has been an OFA farm member since 2018.  Emily and her husband, Mike Appel, farm three organic acres of hand-crafted vegetables and fruits on their Oklahoma farm since 2003.  They were first certified in 2007.  We interviewed Emily this summer to find out more about how she became such an incredible farmer-leader and organic advocate.

Why did you become a farmer? 

Farming gives me the chance to "be the change I wish to see".  Organic farming brings together my beliefs about environmental protection with the lifestyle of growing healthy food.  Surely there are more farmers around the world than any other profession, and I feel a sense of solidarity in doing this work.  Plus, who wants to sit at a computer all day when you can be listening to birds, feeling the breeze on your skin, watching the seasons unfold, feeling the awe of a seed you planted grow into food someone will eat!

Why did you choose to be certified organic? 

I advocate strongly for certification because without it, organic can mean anything to anyone.  Despite the challenges of having a national label, it's still the only way to verify that we're doing what we say we're doing.  Organic certification protects not just consumers but farmers as well.

What are the toughest challenges you face as an organic producer? 

I see the two biggest challenges in organic farming as building and maintaining soil fertility and weed management.  But each of those challenges also represents what is best about organic, the fact that we don't look for quick fixes but take the long view.  Organic farmers aren't farming for that particular season but for 10, 20, 30 years from now.

What are the most valuable lessons you've learned since you started? 

Persistence, adaptability, and resilience.  That's true both for farmers and for the agroecosystems we shepherd.  As an admitted control-freak, there's nothing like organic farming to teach both humility and release.  Farming has shown me how to let go of so much that I can't control--weather, pest invasions, market changes--and to celebrate the small pleasures throughout the day.

What is most rewarding about being an organic farmer? 

I get to work outside, with my body and my mind, with my family, doing something I deeply believe in.  I receive so much more than I give, from the hummingbirds flying over my head as I harvest tomatoes, to watching my daughter pretend to be a cheetah in our cover crop, to being nurtured by the customers who've supported our farm and created community.

Why did you decide to serve on the NOSB? 

I was at a point in my life in which time opened up for me.  After a brief hiatus in serving on boards after becoming a parent, I felt ready to take on a new effort.  Why did I apply to the NOSB in particular?  As farmers, we rely on the label to communicate our practices and values to other farmers and our customers.  I'm a big believer in community service, when life affords the opportunity, and this felt like a chance to be a part of upholding organic integrity.

What impact do you feel you have had during your 5-year term as a farmer-member on the NOSB? 

As a full-time, small-scale farmer I hope I've been able to bring the voice of the producer to my time on the board.  I'm one of only a few folks on the board who experiences being out in the field, knows what it's like to depend on your farm for your living, and relies on the decisions the board makes to produce the food I grow.  Making sure that full-time farmers have a voice is critical to ensuring the organic label represents the people who created and built this movement.

Why did you decide to be involved in Organic Farmers Association? 

While serving on the NOSB, I saw how much representation large farms and corporations have at board meetings, but there was an obvious missing voice in the room: farmers.  Every time OFA presents public comments to the board, I feel proud to be part of an organization that speaks on behalf of farmers, that articulates our concerns, and is so keenly in touch with the needs and beliefs of organic farmers on a national level.



This article was written for New Farm Magazine, the magazine of the Organic Farmers Association.  All OFA Members receive a complimentary issue of New Farm annually.  Join Today!

USDA Announces Second Round of Farm Payments for Coronavirus

September 22, 2020

On September 18, 2020, the USDA announced the second round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2). This new round of the program has up to $14 billion available for direct payments to eligible operations.

Farms can apply for funding from CFAP 2 starting on September 21 through December 11, 2020.

Even if you were not eligible for the first round of CFAP (which was the case for many organic farms), it may be worth checking again because the USDA has changed some of the eligibility requirements and the methods for calculating payments, which may work better for some organic farms. The USDA is using three different methods for calculating payments (a flat per-acre rate, a per-bushel or per-head rate and a percentage of 2019 sales), which vary between different commodities.

Here’s what changed:

Longer time frame

CFAP 1 covered crops that had price losses or market disruptions from mid-January through mid-April of this year. CFAP 2 covers losses for the rest of the year.

More Ways to Calculate Payments

There are three different methods being used to calculate payments, and one of them should work better for specialty (fruit and vegetable) crop producers and diversified operations. For specialty crops, USDA has a new option of covering a percentage of 2019 sales (using a sliding scale – the first $50,000 of sales triggers a 10.6% payment, sales of $50,000 to 99,000 trigger a 9.9% payment, with three more steps for higher sales amount.) There is still no distinction on payment rate for crops with a premium (like organic), but using 2019 sales figures should help capture some of that premium if the crops were sold with a premium for organic last year.

More Eligible Crops

CFAP 2 has more eligible commodities than CFAP 1, including several types of wheat (and also mink, mohair and hemp.) You can see a list of crops that are eligible for some type of payment here.

Just like CFAP 1, this round is being administered by the Farm Services Agency. To apply, you will need to refer to your sales, inventory and other records. The USDA has more information about what records you will need to apply on their website.

You can get more information about payment rates for each type of crop and how to apply here. You can apply on the website or make an appointment with your local FSA office to get assistance over the phone.

The USDA is hosting a webinar about CFAP on Thursday September 24 at 3:00 eastern. You can register for the webinar here.

OFA Director on Food Sleuth Radio

Listen to OFA Director Kate Mendenhall's interview with Melinda Hemmelgarn on her radio show, Food Sleuth Radio. The show touches on organic certification, cost share, and the pandemic.


Resilience, Soil Health, and Community = Winning Strategies

By, Noah Cohen, Organic Farmers Association

Despite much uncertainty and upheaval of our economy during the 2020 outbreak, many organic farms have been bright spots of the COVID-19 economy. With consumers now having 100% control over their food dollars, we have seen nationwide increase in organic sales.  An increase of home cooking has mirrored an increase in purchase of organic whole foods.  Organic farmers have pivoted to shift their businesses in new directions to better serve the local direct markets as well as rethink our food systems for the future.

Here’s how a handful of organic farmers from around the country have fared:


  • FARM FACTS: Taylor runs Lola’s Organic Farm, which sells organic fruits and vegetables through farmers markets, a co-op, and a CSA program.  She also works at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU) as the coordinator of Florida’s Statewide Small Farm Program, which helps farmers obtain education and training to implement organic methods.
  • EXPERIENCE: Lola’s Organic primarily grows fresh fruits and vegetables—food categories that saw especially astronomical sales increases nationwide during the pandemic’s early phases, with consumers suddenly gravitating to products perceived to boost immune system health. “That [sales boost] was true for us,” Taylor says, “and that’s still going on.” “One outcome of this whole thing,” she explains, was that “it caused everyone to slow down and reflect on what’s important to us and to our communities, and as we did that, to think about our health. Because health was an issue.” Many of Taylor’s local community members began to focus on “how to build our own immune systems, and how to eat healthy foods,” she says. “And that was why the customers were being, and still are, very appreciative and supportive of the farmers gearing up to share and sell their local organic produce to the customers [through channels like farmers markets].”
  • TAKEAWAYS: Taylor, who works with small farmers to implement organic practices and enter “different alternative types of marketing systems” at FAMU, says the COVID crisis has “verified” the resilience of local organic farming and underscored its importance to community food systems. “Communities found that [local organics] did not stop being available [during COVID], and food from your local organic farmers was and is the reliant food resource for the community,” she explains. “It also verified [that] for us, because we knew we were essential food providers long before we were deemed that role.” While the organic farmers of Taylor’s community broadly adapted well to the pandemic restrictions, she says farms that “use direct connections from the farmer to the consumer and to the communities” have been especially successful.Taylor also observes that the pandemic’s disproportionate public health impact on communities of color drives home the need to bring the essential health benefits of organic agriculture to urban areas, which she says calls for helping urban and underrepresented farmers implement organic methods through technical assistance, education on certification, and cost-sharing. “Healthy environments, healthy food resources, pollinator habitats, the lack of toxic chemicals being used-- all these are benefits that urban communities see through growing organic agriculture in the soil,” she explains. “And so expanding and enhancing resilient agriculture systems and growing [organics] in urban areas-- that supports minority communities.”


  • FARM FACTS: Adderson has run Adderson’s Fresh Produce since 2007, where she grows organic fruits and vegetables on her 56-acre multi-generational family farm.
  • EXPERIENCE: “Our biggest challenge was finding a market for our produce,” says Adderson, who had ordered seedlings before the pandemic started with the expectation of selling to 12 different distribution channels, including multiple restaurants, school districts, and retail markets. “We immediately realized we had overproduced… due to the pandemic, we only had one online market and one juice bar [to sell produce to].”Faced with lagging sales and over 15,000 seedlings, Adderson pivoted by introducing a Grab Bag Program—which, to better meet public health standards during the pandemic, soon became a Grab Box Program—targeting two different communities. One market where this transition was particularly challenging was the Veggie Park Farmers Market, an organic produce market that serves the Harrisburg neighborhood of Augusta. Harrisburg is a food desert—an urban area where accessibility to affordable fresh food is limited. Many Veggie Park customers, Adderson explains, could not access traditional CSAs because they had no credit or debit card, making it impossible to pay online. The farmers were not set up to receive EBT card payments either, so innovation was necessary. “The boxes were delivered to a central location, and the customers would pick up their boxes and place a check or cash in a container beside the boxes,” Adderson says. While Veggie Park did get some customers for the Box program—especially when their annual Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program opened—sales remained down significantly compared to their traditional farmers market sales from previous years. Nonetheless, Adderson’s Fresh Produce has weathered the storm, albeit with lower sales than usual and the loss of many of their crops due to extreme summer heat. “Our plan for the fall is to step up our game with an increase in brassicas,” Adderson says, “and to add a Box CSA for a stronger 2021.”
  • TAKEAWAYS: “We still have a lot of work to do,” Adderson says of the implementation of her Box Program. “The CSA is a new concept for our communities, families and farmers… [so we need to] educate, and, importantly, allow EBT for online purchases.”
    As a retired nutritionist, Adderson has been preaching the importance of building immune health since long before the pandemic. Now this commitment has begun to pay off, with consumers finally gravitating toward the vitamin-rich, immune boosting organic vegetables she has long been committed to growing to improve the health of her community. “Providing organic dark leafy greens and other high-nutrient vegetables to help reduce nutrition-related diseases is our mission,” she says. “Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, mustards, and spinach are full of vitamins and minerals. Excellent sources of Vitamin A and C, too.” Adderson plans to keep using her platform as a staple food resource for her community to drive home the connection between health and diet and encourage her customers to consume more fresh, nutritious, and vitamin-rich foods to protect their health, both during the pandemic and beyond.


    • FARM FACTS: Livingston runs Northland Sheep Dairy, a 177-acre farm that produces “completely handmade” aged sheep cheese and lamb using 100% grass-fed sheep, and primarily sells wholesale to restaurants and retail outlets.
  • EXPERIENCE: Livingston considers herself incredibly lucky that due to the production timeline for both aged cheese and lamb, her sales dropping off precipitously during the pandemic has not hugely affected her livelihood. “I make aged cheeses, so I’m usually selling the previous year’s cheese,” she explains. “I’m mostly wholesale—we make whole wheels that go to a couple distributors, mostly to restaurants. But of course [this year] the restaurant sales went kaputt, as did my distributors… so I have a couple really small retail outlets I sell to, but other than that I’m really not selling much cheese. So therefore, I haven’t weaned my lambs… I’m not milking, I’m not making cheese, yet.” As for lamb, Livingston does direct sales to customers, which were, as usual, concentrated around November last year. “So we sold all our lambs at once and had a nice nest egg from that, so we’re doing fine,” she says. “We’re using this year to do lots of projects we’ve never had time to do, we’re making the most of it, and it’s going pretty well.” And for this year’s slaughter season, she says, “I’m fortunate that I have a wonderful relationship with a great USDA butcher that’s certified organic, and I have my appointment, and I’m good to go.”
  • TAKEAWAYS: “Being small has made us resilient,” Livingston says, “and so has making aged cheese [which can be stored rather than sold for a long time]. If I were producing a ton of fresh cheese, I’d be really under the gun to keep them moving.”


  • FARM FACTS: Powell-Palm is a millennial farmer who has been running his own organic cattle-growing operation since the age of 12, and the owner of Cold Springs Organics, an 875-acre ranch where he produces grains and grass-fed beef.
  • EXPERIENCE: “In Montana, we sort of socially distance natively, so it wasn’t all that much of a change for us. And in the summertime, me and my crew don’t really leave the farm, it’s just too busy for that,” quips Powell-Palm, who I finally reached after several weeks during a 30-minute break between marathon sessions of combining wheat. The biggest impact of COVID on his day-to-day operation, he says, is that it “disrupted some of the supply chain, so ordering parts [for machinery like combines] has been kind of tricky.”
    With meat processing plants shutting down en masse during COVID, many meat growers have been left unable to sell this summer. Powell-Palm, however, was able to “inch by,” thanks to Montana’s robust system of local, family-run slaughter plants, which have fared much better than the industrial-scale processors elsewhere. “The plants here don’t have very many employees, so they’re pretty resilient as far as surviving [the pandemic],” he explains. But by next year, Cold Springs will be better prepared: this year’s shutdowns have inspired them to open their own processing plant. “We had mostly been selling our cattle to Whole Foods, which goes through a larger processor that’s experienced disruptions throughout the pandemic,” Powell-Palm explains, “so it’s kind of inspired us to take the jump.”
  • TAKEAWAYS: Powell-Palm says the pandemic has made it clearer than ever that organic grass-fed beef is not only the only ecologically sustainable beef production system, but also a critical solution for consumer health and a bulwark against devastation for farmers during economic crises. Unlike other beef, which is loaded with the blood pressure-spiking Omega-6 fatty acids that spur nutritionists to warn against too much red meat, grass-fed beef largely replaces these fats with the much more heart-healthy Omega-3s. “Grass-fed beef actually has nearly the same Omega-3 [fatty acid] profile as salmon… so when you talk about salmon’s ability to bolster brain function and heart health, grass fed beef does that as well,” Powell-Palm says. With consumers becoming unusually health-conscious during the pandemic, he says, many have started to take stock of these benefits. “There’s also been a lot of studies about farm economic liability and grazing,” Powell-Palm says, “and the farms that graze [their livestock] as opposed to using feedlots, they’re really the ones that survive the bad times, like this pandemic. They’re the really resilient model.”Reflecting on his decision to open his own meat processing plant as well as his own feed mill—which he says is “kind of as a service” for members of his community who want to raise their own food—Powell-Palm says local processing infrastructure and self-sufficient local food systems are key to keeping food available to communities during crises like COVID. “Thinking about the wake-up call of [COVID],” he says, “we’ve got a lot of food going un-used at the local level right now, so we’re trying to figure out how you make [our local commodities] more accessible, more able to utilize at the local level, and more available to consumers and to communities.”


Most organic farmers seem to agree on one thing: that COVID-19 has exposed fundamental flaws in the food system status quo. Mark McAfee calls the pandemic “a national stress test on our food system [where] consolidated, huge industrial systems have failed” while local, organic, consumer-connected systems have thrived. While COVID-19 has been tragic, Bishop says, it has unexpectedly provided “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to reevaluate our current food system and imagine how it might improve for the future, using the resilience and success of the many thriving local, organic farms as a blueprint.

Several farmers also recommended specific policy priorities, including:

  • Establishing federal quotas for dairy to stabilize dairy prices, protecting dairy farmers from market shocks like the pandemic
  • Establishing robust certification processes for the grass-fed label on meat to ensure uniform standards and increase consumer transparency
  • Allowing EBT cards to be used for online CSA purchases, to enable consumers without access to credit or debit cards to access fresh produce delivery
  • Bringing the crucial soil health benefits of organic farming to cities by supporting urban organic farmers
  • Improving nutritious food access for Black, indigenous, and people of color communities by supporting underrepresented organic farmers via technical assistance, organic certification education, and increased funding for the organic certification cost-share program
  • Enforcement of antitrust laws to combat meat/dairy industry concentration, which many have called “the root cause” of COVID-related processing supply chain disruptions
  • Fixing the organic livestock enforcement loophole, which has tanked organic dairy prices
  • Mitigating the farm workforce’s vulnerability to border closures by introducing a new longer-term farm worker visa for immigrants and an agriculture-centric path to citizenship
  • Prioritizing local farms + disproportionately impacted communities when distributing stimulus money
  • Making federal investments into organic sector development
  • Revising eligibility restrictions for SNAP, creating incentives to buy fresh, local foods


September Policy Update

By, Patty Lovera, Policy Director


It’s getting a little repetitive, but once again there is still no clear sign what Congress will do next to address the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and related economic disruption. The House passed its version of a stimulus/pandemic response bill in May, but the Senate has not yet passed its own bill. On September 10th, the Senate voted on a Republican version of a limited or “skinny” version of a pandemic response bill, which failed, 52-47 (most bills need 60 votes to advance in the Senate.) 

This means that the negotiations between Democrats and Republicans will continue, with major issues to be resolved, including aid to state and local governments, unemployment assistance, and a proposal to provide 

businesses with immunity from lawsuits by workers or customers. The two sides seem to be as far apart as they were earlier this summer, but as we get closer to the election, there may be more pressure on both sides to come up with something that can pass both the House and Senate.

So far, the negotiations remain focused on those big picture economic issues, with not much discussion of specific sectors like agriculture. All the bills that have been introduced would provide more funding for USDA to make direct payments to farms and processors that were impacted by the pandemic, with the same vague instructions that give a lot of discretion to USDA on how to set up these payments.

USDA continues to run the two main programs established by the CARES Act that Congress passed earlier this year. You can read more about these programs here. The deadline for applying for the direct payment program, the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, just passed but USDA has said they will soon be making an announcement about a new round of funding for that program. We will post an update on the OFA website when details are released.

USDA Regulations on Origin of Organic Livestock

Earlier this summer, we made sure to remind the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) that Congress had set a deadline for them to finalize a long-delayed rule about how livestock are transitioned into organic production. Congress set a deadline of mid-June for NOP to finish this rule in the 2020 appropriations (spending) bill for USDA.

Unfortunately, the NOP not only failed to meet that deadline, but has now explained that they believe there are significant problems with the proposed rule they have been working on since 2015 that need to be addressed before they can finish it.

OFA is going to continue to push NOP to finish this rule, which is critical for creating a level playing field for all organic dairy producers and closing the loopholes in existing regulations that are being exploited by large operations.

Organic Certification Cost-Share

On August 10, the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced that funds were being released for the annual organic certification cost share program. OFA has been working with allies like the National Organic Coalition for several months to pressure FSA to make this year’s funds available so that organic farmers and handling operations could begin to apply for reimbursement for part of their annual certification costs.

Unfortunately, the FSA announced that due to an unexpected shortfall in funding, they were lowering the reimbursement rate to 50 percent of the certified organic operation’s eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $500 per scope. This is reduced from a rate of 75 percent of the certified organic operation’s eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $750 per scope in previous years (and the level that was specified for this program in the last Farm Bill.) OFA has been working with NOC and other allies to understand what happened to cause this funding shortfall and to alert members of Congress who support the cost share program. In late August, 39 members of the House sent a letter to FSA objecting to this cut in the reimbursement rate and in September, Senator Collins (R-ME) sent her own letter expressing concern. We are going to keep working with members of Congress to try to restore the funding for organic certification cost share this year and to prevent funding shortfalls like this in the future. You can find out how to take action on cost share here.

Don’t Forget to Comment on Stopping Fraudulent Organic Imports!  

OFA has worked for years to demand better enforcement to prevent fraud in organic markets. In last month’s policy update, we gave some detail on the proposed rule on Strengthening Organic Enforcement. The public comment period for this proposed rule is open until October 5th, so check out what is in the rule and find out how to add your comment here.


National Organic Standards Board Fall Meeting

The fall NOSB meeting will be held online, spread out over several days. The public comment sessions will be from noon until 5:00 eastern on October 20 and 22, and the NOSB meeting will be from noon until 5:00 eastern on October 28, 29 and 30th.

You can get information about registering to watch the meeting online, how to submit written comments and how to sign up for a public comment slot on the USDA’s website for this meeting. The deadline to submit written comments and sign up for a public comment slot is October 1st.

You can see the full agenda for the meeting on the USDA’s website, but two items that might be of interest to OFA members are paper pots and a parasiticide for laying hens called fenbendazole. You can read more about the proposals the NOSB will vote on at the October meeting here. OFA will be urging the board to approve paper pots as an allowable synthetic because they are similar to already-approved inputs and because they are particularly important to smaller operations. And we will be urging the board not to allow the use of fenbendazole with no withholding period and no defined parameters for use. There are real concerns about the potential for residues of the drug to remain in eggs laid by treated birds as well as concerns about how this drug fits into a properly managed organic system with adequate outdoor access.



We also need OFA members to weigh in during the public comment period for the Strengthening Organic Enforcement proposed rule to make sure it gets finalized quickly and that the final rule is a strong as possible.

Here’s how you can comment:

The fastest way to submit a public comment is through the federal government’s online system. This proposed rule has its own web page and you can click on the “Comment Now” button on the top right to enter your comment. You can either copy and paste your comment into the system or attach a file.

If you want to submit a hard copy of your comments instead (you don’t need to do this if you submit online), send it to:

Jennifer Tucker, Deputy Administrator, National Organic Program, USDA-AMS-NOP, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Room 2642-So., Ag Stop 0268, Washington, DC 20250-0268;  Fax: (202) 260-9151

What to include in your comment:

  • Make sure to include the docket number for this proposed rule in your written comment: AMS-NOP-17-0065.
  • Explain that you are an organic farmer and mention any specific concerns you have or examples of how fraud in organic supply chains has impacted you.


  • This proposed rule is necessary and long overdue. I especially support the end to exemptions for uncertified handlers in the supply chain and the requirement of electronic import certificates.
  • I urge the USDA to finalize this rule as soon as possible and speed up the effective date so that the agency can start enforcing these rules to prevent fraud in organic supply chains.
  • For section 205.273(c), I urge the USDA to shorten the time frame allowed for an importer to submit an electronic import certificate into the ACES system. Allowing importers 10 days to file the electronic certificate after the shipment has reached a U.S. port could mean the difference between preventing fraudulent products from entering the U.S. and having to try to retrieve them once they have entered commerce.
  • I appreciate the proposed rule’s requirements that non-retail containers be labeled with more information about the organic status of products (section 205.307). But I urge the agency to expand this requirement to large non-retail containers such as trailers, tanks, rail cars, shipping containers, grain elevators/silos, vessels, cargo holds, freighters, barges, or other method of bulk transport or storage. Providing a visual indicator that these contain organic products serve as a valuable backstop to other methods, such as organic certificates, and provide one last opportunity to prevent unintended commingling or treatment with irradiation or other prohibited substances. I also urge the agency to investigate technologies that indicate whether containers have been opened or tampered with during shipping for large-scale shipments.


NOC & OFA Issue Press Release on Cost Share


Media Contact:
National Organic Coalition, Abby Youngblood, abby@nationalorganiccoalition.org, 646-525-7165
Organic Farmers Association, Kate Mendenhall, kate@organicfarmersassociation.org 202-643-5363

National Organic Coalition and Organic Farmers Association

Thank House Members for Their Bipartisan Letter to USDA Calling for Restoration of Organic Certification Cost Share Funding

Washington, D.C. – August 26, 2020 — Yesterday, 39 Members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) to urge the restoration of funding for the Organic Certification Cost Share program (OCCSP), and to extend all applicable program deadlines to ensure that farmers who are still dealing with COVID-19 impacts have ample time to access these funds.  The letter was led by Representatives Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Anthony Brindisi (D-NY), and Dan Newhouse (R-WA).  All signers of the letter are members of either the House Committee on Agriculture or the House Organic Caucus.

The letter is in response to the announcement on August 10 announcement by the FSA of the agency’s plans to reduce reimbursement rates for the organic certification cost share program, which provides reimbursements to organic farms and handling operations. The Federal Register notice stated that FSA is “revising the reimbursement amount to 50 percent of the certified organic operation’s eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $500 per scope,” because of lack of funding. The 2018 Farm Bill clearly set reimbursement rates at 75 percent of the certified organic operation’s eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $750 per scope.

“The National Organic Coalition thanks Representatives Plaskett, Davis, Brindisi and Newhouse for their leadership in organizing this letter calling on USDA to restore funding for this crucial organic program.” said Abby Youngblood, Executive Director at the National Organic Coalition. “Producers and other organic operations need this support now more than ever because they are faced with economic disruptions and loss of markets due to COVID-19.”

"The Organic Certification Cost-Share Program is especially important for small and mid-size organic farms,” said Kate Mendenhall, Director of the Organic Farmers Association. “Organic farmers scrambled this season to make sure healthy food was available for our local communities in a time of crisis.  This is a time when the USDA should be looking for ways to support organic farmers, not harm them."

This action by USDA is unwarranted and completely unacceptable. The 2018 Farm Bill provided new funding for the program and also directed USDA to use the program’s carryover balances from previous years to fund the program for fiscal years 2019 through 2023. Given these sources of funding, there should be plenty of funds available for the program’s operation in fiscal year 2020. Either USDA’s accounting for this program is flawed or the agency has redirected some of the organic certification cost share funding to other programs, in conflict with the funding directives in the 2018 Farm Bill. In addition, the FSA has done a huge disservice to the organic community in this time of crisis by delaying the release of funds by many months while organic operations struggle to stay in business as they weather a pandemic and loss of markets.

In addition, NOC and OFA urge organic operations to apply for certification cost-share assistance as soon as they are able to do so with their state agency or local FSA office: https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/occsp/index

Operations have until October 31, 2020 to apply for funding. FSA has stated that “if additional funding is authorized at a later time, FSA may provide additional assistance to certified operations that have applied” for the organic certification cost share program.

About the National Organic Coalition:

The National Organic Coalition (NOC) is a national alliance of organizations working to provide a "Washington voice" for farmers, ranchers, conservationists, consumers, and industry members involved in organic agriculture. NOC seeks to advance organic food and agriculture and ensure a united voice for organic integrity, which means strong, enforceable, and continuously improved standards. The coalition works to assure that policies are fair, equitable, and encourage diversity of participation and access. Learn more at NationalOrganicCoalition.org.


About the Organic Farmers Association:

The Organic Farmers Association (OFA) provides a strong and unified national voice for domestic certified organic producers, by supporting a farmer-led national organic farmer movement and national policy platform, strengthening the capacity of organic farmers and farm organizations, and supporting collaboration and leadership among state, regional and national organic farmer organizations. Rodale Institute supports this initiative as fiscal sponsor and partner with OFA’s farmer leadership. Learn more at OrganicFarmersAssociation.org.