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IATP Organic Cotton Monitor Vol. 3, Number 8

  IATP Organic Cotton Monitor - Vol. 3, Number 8    August 18, 1997

                            Table of Contents                           
    - IFOAM Working On Organic Textile Standards
    - Organic Fiber Council
    - National Organic Standards: The Waiting is the Hardest Part
    - Organic Investing
    - Events/Resources



GroLink AB has been asked by the IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) Standards Committee to develop a proposal for IFOAM Textile Processing standards for organic and ecological textiles from all natural fibers. The work is funded by SIDA, the Swedish international development cooperation agency.
The standards will  be developed in consultation with interested organizations. A first draft is planned for mid September, when a workshop will take place at the IFOAM trade conference in Oxford, England  September 26 (see Events/Resources). One other round of consultations will follow at a later date. IFOAM aims  to have a final proposal ready in spring 1998, to be approved by the IFOAM General Assembly in November 1998.

IFOAM is also at work on developing an international logo to be launched in early 1998. IFOAM began an accreditation program in 1992 to accredit organic certification programs around the world. The IFOAM logo, most likely to read "IFOAM Accredited," will be used in conjunction with local or regional certification logos to communicate that the certifier is accredited by IFOAM. For example, a producer whose organic facility (farm, gin) is certified by an IFOAM accredited certifier will have the IFOAM logo on their certification certificate to demonstrate the credibility  of the certification program. Carrying the IFOAM logo is a statement regarding the certification program, not a statement about the actual product. For more information on the IFOAM logo contact Ken Commins, Executive Director at <Kcom@daktel.com>.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA), a business organization representing the organic industry in North America, announced on August 1 the formation of  the Organic Fiber Council (OFC).  The OFC will fill a much needed position in the organic fiber industry,  taking on a leadership role at the national level to unify diverse sectors of the organic cotton and agricultural fiber industries.

OFC goals include increasing the sales and sustainability of the organic fiber industry; leveraging public and private funds to invest in the organic fiber industry, and providing a strong and unified voice on legislative, regulatory and policy issues. 

The council has received funding from the Environmental Protection Agency for its consumer education and industry networking initiatives. Within the next year, OFC will publish the ORGANIC COTTON RESOURCE DIRECTORY  as well as a CONSUMERíS GUIDE TO ORGANIC COTTON PRODUCTS. OFC will also work with the USDAís National Organic Program to develop uniform standards for organic cotton production, handling, processing and labeling.

The long awaited national organic standards-- which managed to make their way to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review in June, are still with the OMB. A spokesperson for the Agricultural Marketing Service said OMB hopes to have the proposed organic rule ready for the public comment period sometime this fall. There is no time limit on how long the OMB may review the standards. 

Meanwhile, the delay in issuing the national organic standards may take its toll on funding for the USDAís National Organic Program (NOP). The Department of Agriculture requested a $1 million budget for the NOP, twice its usual request, in order to fund the implementation of the national standards. The House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee agreed to only $550,000 in an apparent show of displeasure at the slow progress made in bringing the standards to market.

The Senate Subcommittee approved the $1 million funding level, with the following caveat written into its funding bill: "The committee is concerned by the delay in the promulgation of standards necessary for the full implementation of the Organic Certification Program and strongly urges the Department to publish the final rule as soon as possible." 
Funding is expected to end up around $750,000, dependent in part on whether the proposed rule has moved out of the OMB by the time legislators meet in September to work out a final funding bill.

National Organic Standards, including standards for organic fiber, are crucial for the further development of the organic market. Observers worry, however, that allowing the federal government to define organic standards may compromise the integrity of the organic industry. "This is the institutionalizing of the word 'organic' by the government, and we should pay close attention," says Michael Sligh, Director of the Sustainable Agriculture Program at the Rural Advancement Foundation International. For example, the National Organics Standards Board, the advisory committee to the NOP on formulating national standards, recommended that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) not be considered organic. It is widely expected that the proposed national standards disregard that recommendation and include GMOs under the organic umbrella.
"Organic program funding level under debate," THE ORGANIC REPORT, August 1997; "Whose organic standards?" THE PROGRESSIVE POPULIST, August 1997.

Over the past 15 months, more than $618 million dollars has been invested in natural products companies through initial public offerings. The largely unregulated natural products sector  includes dietary supplements, personal care products, and organic foods and beverages. Analysts estimate that the natural products industry is worth $20 billion, $3.5 billion of which is organic foods and beverages. One industry analyst said "Itís a very attractive industry for investors because itís growing fast and many companies that were private are ready to go public. . . The Baby Boomers are driving this. They are willing to pay for purity."

Organic sales in 1996 increased by 26 per cent over 1995, from $714 million to $872 million. Organic produce and dairy products make up the bulk of organic goods sold,  with the former accounting for $513 million in sales and dairy capturing $120 milling in consumer dollars. No figures were available for organic cotton sales. 

"Investors craving organic- booming food business has the street salivating," SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, August 2, 1997; "Organic sales increase by 26 per cent in 1996," NATURAL FOODS MERCHANDISER, June 1997.

The 5th IFOAM International Conference on Trade in Organic Products:The Future Agenda For Organic Trade-- September 24-27, 1997. Oxford, England. For more information contact IFOAM Organic Trade Conference, Mouse Lane, Steyning, BN44 3DG England. Ph: +44/1903/812/200; Fax: +44/1903/879/052; E-mail: <ifoamconf@naturalproducts.co.uk>.

Certification Handbook: A Guide To Healthful, Ecologically Accountable Agriculture: Published by the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), 1997. A comprehensive guide to organic farming under CCOF standards. Includes information on crop standards, certification costs, processing and handling standards as well as retailing standards. For more information contact CCOF Statewide Office, 1115 Mission Street, Santa Cruz, CA,  95060  USA. Ph: +01/408/423/2263; Fax: +01/408/423/4528. 

The Source Book of Sustainable Agriculture: Published by the Sustainable Agriculture Network, 1997. US$12. The resource guide lists 559 resource materials pertinent to sustainable agriculture: How to market sustainably grown vegetables, locating research on the internet. Includes information on print, electronic and video resources. Contact Sustainable Agriculture Publications, Hills Building, UVM, Burlington Vermont, 05405-0082 USA. Ph: +01/802/656/0471; E-mail: <msimpson@zoo.uvm.edu>; Internet: <www.ces.ncsu.edu/san/>.

Your Access to the European Organic Food Market- A Practical Primer for the U.S. Food Industry: Baltimore, Maryland. September 17, 1997. Designed to help U.S. processors, brokers and traders access the European Unionís organic food market. Keynote speakers are Manon Haccius, Managing Director of the German organic growers association, and Hanspeter Schmidt, legal advisor to IFOAM. For more information contact Aleen Rothschild-Seidel, Organic Food Seminar, Suite 1100--1101 17th Street NW, Washington, D.C., 20036-4798 USA.


Produced by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Mark  Ritchie, President.  Editor: Judith Brienza, e-mail iatp@iatp.org.  E-mail  versions are available free of charge. For information about fax or mail subscriptions or for a  list of other IATP publications, contact the Institute for Agriculture  and Trade Policy, 2105 First Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55404.  612-870-0453, fax: 612-870-4846, e-mail iatp@iatp.org.  For  information about IATP's contract research services, contact Dale  Wiehoff at IATP dwiehoff@iatp.org