Washington, DC—The Organic Trade Association (OTA) has been awarded $2.5 million to open and develop untapped export markets for U.S. organic products through the new Regional Agricultural Promotion Program (RAPP) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The goal of RAPP is to diversify and expand market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products into new markets in parts of the world where the middle class is growing and the desire for high-quality food and farm products is increasing

OTA shared that the award will be used to help fund market development activities over a five-year period, with a focus on boosting U.S. organic exports to Southeast Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean (areas beyond the U.S.’s traditional top customers of Canada, Mexico, the European Union and China).

OTA said it plans to:

  • Work to design consumer-focused retail and educational campaigns that highlight the health benefits of organic foods and the quality of USDA-certified organic products;
  • Participate in trade shows and organizing trade missions in the targeted countries
  • Conduct market research to fully understand the preferences of consumers and better position U.S. organic for success in those markets.  

“Consumer and trade promotional activities historically funded by USDA’s Market Access Program (MAP) and Agricultural Trade Promotion (ATP) program have been key to opening foreign markets to U.S. organic exports and creating trust in the USDA Organic seal globally," said Sarah Gorman, Manager of International Trade, OTA. "With the allocation of $2.5 million from RAPP funding, the trade association is excited to further develop and expand our global consumer and trade promotional activities."

Tom Chapman, OTA co-CEO, added, “Given the rising demand for organic products globally, and especially in Latin America and Southeast Asia, this additional funding offers a significant opportunity for U.S. organic exporters to explore and enter developing markets, driving growth for American organic farmers and industry while contributing to healthier, more sustainable food systems in the region.”

In related news, OTA and The Organic Center are the recipients of $2.2 million in Organic Market Development Grant (OMDG) matching funds from the USDA to expand organic markets through consumer education and promotion. The funds provided by USDA match those provided by the OTA, The Organic Center and Organic Voices for a three-year project totaling $4.4 million. The goal of the joint project: to stimulate the demand for and increase the sales of organic products by promoting the science-backed benefits of USDA certified organic products and farming to consumers.

“We thank USDA for making this project possible with this important funding," said Chapman. "Consumers lack information about all that the USDA Organic label stands for and all the benefits it delivers for human health, the environment, and businesses. Our project aims to increase the consumption of organic by giving consumers access to more credible information about what organic production and processing means, and the advantages it provides.” 

Dr. Amber Sciligo, Director of Science Programs for The Organic Center, added, “We want to educate people about the difference organic makes, and inspire them to choose organic. This project will highlight organics’ ability to protect natural resources, sequester carbon and regenerate soil health, while also providing nutritional benefits and protecting us from synthetic pesticides, preservatives, antibiotics and more. The more educated consumers are about organic, the more likely they will seek out that Organic label.”

U.S. Organic Marketplace Posts Record Sales in 2023

The latest education efforts come amid record sales. OTA reported that U.S. sales of certified organic products approached $70 billion in 2023, which marks a new record for the sector. Dollar sales for the American organic marketplace hit $69.7 billion last year, up 3.4%, according to OTA's 2024 Organic Industry Survey.

“It is encouraging to see that organic is growing at basically the same rate as the total market. In the face of inflation and considering organic is already seen as a premium category, the current growth shows that consumers continue to choose organic amidst economic challenges and price increases," said Chapman. "Although organic is now a maturing sector in the marketplace, we still have plenty of room to grow.”

Matthew Dillon, co-CEO of OTA, stressed the importance of education to grow organic. “It is essential to educate consumers that choosing organic is a straightforward way to tackle some of the greatest challenges we face. Whether it's accessing healthy foods, improving transparency in supply chains, mitigating climate change, supporting rural economic resilience, protecting natural resources, or realizing the multitude of other benefits, effectively communicating and delivering on these promises is the key to expanding organic’s share of our dinner plate.”

Top Organic Sellers: Produce, GroceryA pie chart with text and numbers

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