food—all of the things that organic produces. At some
point later, we might want to increase the amount so the
program can expand, but that is putting the cart before
The timeline is hard to pin down because we’re trying to
put the technical fixes into the Farm Bill and we’re not sure
when that is going to move. But we’re not talking ten
years—this is something that is in the foreseeable future. We
hope to deal with the technical issues in the next six months
and be able to launch a program in a year and a half or so.
OP: How was the steering com-
mittee for this program chosen
and what has its role been so far?
Dietz: The steering committee
was formed at Expo East 2011,
and we’ve been meeting twice
a month. When putting to-
gether the steering commit-
tee, I took a look at all the
existing USDA promotion
boards and established a 20-
person committee that repre-
sents all the different sectors
in the organic industry and
weighted it based on the size
of each category within the in-
dustry. The committee is
made up of different businesses, farmers and nonprofits to
try to make sure that we have a very well-rounded repre-
sentation of all of the different commodities from bever-
ages, breads, grains and condiments to dairy, produce and
prepared food. We also have one retailer and two mem-
During phase one, we conducted a SWOT analysis—
looking at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and
threats, and the committee members’ job was to look at
this from both their own company perspective as well as to
reach out to other members of OTA and nonmembers. We
reached out to all different types of industry folks and
wanted to hear everything—good, bad and/or ugly.
In phase two, we divided into three different subgroups.
We have a communications subcommittee, which is led by
Robynn Schrader with the National Cooperative Grocers
Association. Laura Batcha, executive vice president of
OTA, is heading up the effort to submit the application to
USDA, and I’m doing the town hall meetings with my subcommittee. We encourage all of the industry to attend
these meetings and be involved. There will also be a
newsletter with updates on the program as well. You can
sign up at www.ota.com/ORPP.html.
Steering Committee Chair:
manager, human resources &
Smucker Natural Foods Inc.
OP: What has been the response to the program so far?
Dietz: The general response overall has been excitement.
There have been some reservations because it is an additional cost, something else to pay into. But most can see
that the outcomes far outweigh the risks. There is always
some fear that something like this will fail, but OTA wouldn’t keep moving forward if we didn’t have reassurance that
it would be successful.
OP: Why do you think the
organic industry needs a market-
ing promotion order?
McKee: You only have to think
about some great promotion
orders campaigns in recent
times to get excited about the
possible solid impact a pro-or-ganic campaign could have.
Everyone knows the “Got
Milk” campaign that enlisted a
crew of celebrities to lead the
white mustache crusade, and
the “The Other White Meat”
drive funded by the U.S. pork
Organics is a simple and impactful message that fits into
many of this decade’s aspirational lifestyles. Currently, we
are just doing an OK job of getting the message across to
the mainstream, but there is power in numbers. If the organic industry can come together behind an impressive,
uplifting organic message, the benefits to the whole industry, from farmers to leading brands, and to the consumers
and planet, will be vast.
Steering Committee Member:
vice president & co-founder,
OP: What kinds of challenges does it present? How do we over-
come these challenges?
McKee: We are always a little scared of the unknown. Especially if we fear it may impact our pocket in the immediate
short term. This is why Wholesome Sweeteners has
stepped up at this early stage to sponsor the development
of the organic research and promotion program.
Politically, there will also be push back from many sides.
I am still amazed that there was controversy when the first
lady started her “Lets Move” campaign and when she announced she had an organic garden at the White House.
Right now, organics can be perceived to be just for the
wealthy, the elite and even just for those on the “left” side.
We need to change this perception.
This promotion order is the perfect platform to promote the positive attributes of organics and address any
negative impressions. Many people simply do not know