Washington, D.C.—The Organic Trade Association (OTA) issued a statement regarding the reported choice Tom Vilsack as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under President-elect Joe Biden. OTA said it looks forward to working again with Vilsack, adding that he "understands the importance and great potential of the American organic sector."

Pointing to positives, OTA explained that, as Agriculture Secretary in the Obama administration, Vilsack recognized the organic industry for “creating important opportunities for farmers and ranchers and adding to the vibrancy of rural America” and oversaw a period of "unprecedented growth for organic farmers and businesses." OTA added that Vilsack knows the importance of clear, consistent organic standards, as well as the responsibility of the USDA to support the public-private partnership that has made the organic sector successful.

"Our country is facing deep challenges," OTA said in the statement. "We need a food system that recognizes the needs of all farmers, eaters and workers; a food system that recognizes the role that agriculture can play in helping to mitigate climate change. It is imperative that the incoming administration look to the future. We anticipate working with Mr. Vilsack to amplify organic's voice in these critical issues."

OTA also stressed the need for improvements. In a memo by OTA to the Biden-Harris transition team, OTA outlined "immediate wins for the first 100 days," including:
  • Restore leadership within the OSEC-MRP mission area.
  • Reinstate the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule.
  • Publish a final rule on the Origin of Livestock.
  • Restore the Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Policy Advisor Role.
  • Restore full funding for organic certification cost-share.
"Organic is a bright spot in U.S. agriculture, offering opportunities for market growth, providing economic stability for farms of all sizes, spurring investments in rural communities, and building a more resilient, climate-friendly system of farming," OTA wrote in the memo. "However, the last four years of the previous administration have stifled growth and threatened the livelihoods of organic farmers and businesses through many aggressive actions taken by USDA to roll back progress. Under renewed leadership at a future USDA, there are opportunities to reinvest in the fastest-growing segment of U.S. agriculture by taking simple steps to reverse regulatory inaction and expand support for organic food and farmers in all mission areas." Read morehere.
Related: OTA Releases Blueprint for Advancing Organic in Climate Change Policy USDA 2019 Organic Survey Shows Gains; OTA Calls for More Support Regenerative Agriculture in the Age of COVID-19 & Beyond