WASHINGTON, Jan. 8, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a move to elevate the voice of the western organic grain farmer and better connect the organic sector with key organic grain growers and handlers, the 230-member Montana Organic Association voted unanimously last month to join the Organic Trade Association's Farmers Advisory Council (FAC), becoming the newest farmer-governed association to form a strategic alliance with OTA.
The addition of the Montana Organic Association (MOA) to FAC will provide invaluable perspective from organic growers in the important Northern Great Plains and the Mountain West regions. The Northern Great Plains is a significant provider of organic grains, with Montana ranking as the nation's largest producer of organic wheat.
"We heartily welcome MOA and its members to our Farmers Advisory Council," said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of OTA. "We know that MOA's presence on the council will add much to our understanding of the unique needs and issues of organic growers in that region. It's an encouraging sign that our diverse members are actively participating and engaging in our efforts to move the organic sector forward."
"Joining OTA's Farmer Advisory Council will benefit our membership in giving them a larger influence on national organic policy issues, and it will give FAC our perspective on issues facing Montana's organic farmers and ranchers," said Nate Brown, Chairman of the Board for MOA and an organic dairy farmer. "With the demand for organic food so high, especially for grains, MOA thinks this partnership will help us to better serve our membership, cultivate new organic farmers and ranchers, and expand organic acreage in our region."
The Farmers Advisory Council was formed by OTA in 2013. The group gives a bigger voice to organic farmers, and fosters two-way communication between OTA and organic farmers, while providing a network to share relevant and timely information to growers. Besides MOA, participating organizations include CCOF Inc., Organic Egg Farmers of America, Oregon Tilth Certified Organic, Western Organic Dairy Producers Association and CROPP Cooperative.
Increasing the supply of organic grains is a top priority for FAC. The shortage of domestically produced organic grains has had an impact on other sectors of the organic industry, making it sometimes difficult, for example, for organic food manufacturers to procure enough organic grains for their products and even necessitating the import of foreign-grown organic grain to bridge the gap between supply and demand. OTA is participating in a pilot project centered in the Northern Great Plains on barriers to organic certification, and MOA's alliance with FAC and OTA will engender a better grasp of the key issues involved.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Montana organic producers grew more than 55,000 acres of wheat in 2013, along with 6,000-plus acres of organic dry peas and lentils, which are commonly used as rotation crops in the production of organic wheat. Developing markets for rotation crops is a critical piece in growing the supply of staple organic grains like wheat and corn. MOA's new affiliation with OTA will help organic producers in the Northern Great Plains better connect with buyers and expand their markets.
The new alliance with OTA now opens the opportunity for MOA members to join OTA under its new Farmstead Membership category. This membership category makes full OTA membership available for just $50 per year to organic farmers whose annual income from organic sales is less than $250,000 and who have current membership in one of the organizations with which FAC has formed a strategic alliance. Farmstead Membership farmers get the full benefits of an OTA membership, including the right to vote in OTA's annual Board of Directors election.
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. OTA is the leading voice for the organic trade in the United States, representing over 6,500 organic businesses across 49 states. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA's Board of Directors is democratically elected by its members. OTA's mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy.
SOURCE Organic Trade Association