Organic Farmers Associations Council c/o Janus Farms Institute
Rt. 3, Box 494, Silver City, NC 27344
Contact Person: Kate Havel Phone: 919-742-4672
Project Director: John Matthews: 501-446-2171
Amount Requested: $7,565 March 15, 1992
The Organic Farmers Associations Council (OFAC) is a national non-profit organization made up of state and regional grower and certification organizations. Although it has no paid staff and limited resources, it has gained recognition in the national policymaking arena as an effective advocate for organic agriculture and credibility at the grassroots as an authentic voice for organic farmers. OFAC has reached a turning point after being engaged for more than two years in shaping national organic standards legislation and influencing its implementation. The fundamental question is whether its success in the policy arena has outrun its institutional capability and whether it should continue as a grassroots organization relying on volunteers or whether it needs more structure and staff to achieve its objectives. The Ruth Mott Foundation is being asked to support an evaluation and planning meeting where decisions relating to this fundamental choice can be made and OFAC’s future direction can be shaped.
Proposal for an Evaluation and Planning Initiative
The Organic Farmers Associations Council (OPAC) is a national non-profit organization made up of state and regional grower and certification organizations. Although it has no paid staff and limited resources, it has gained recognition in the national policymaking arena as an effective advocate for organic agriculture and credibility at the grassroots as an authentic voice for organic farmers. OPAC has reached a turning point after being engaged for more than two years in shaping national organic standards legislation and influencing its implementation. The fundamental question is whether its success in the policy arena has outrun its institutional capability and whether it should continue as a grassroots organization relying on volunteers or whether it needs more structure and staff to meet its objectives. The Ruth Mott Foundation is being asked to support an evaluation and planning meeting where decisions relating to this fundamental choice can be made and OPAC’s future direction can be shaped.
Formation and Development of OPAC.
Late in 1989 representatives of state and regional organic grower and certification groups were invited to Leavenworth, Kansas, to consider establishing a national organization. The primary impetus for this meeting, which was funded by the Ruth Mott Foundation, was concern at the grassroots over the potential impact on growers of newly-introduced national organic standards legislation.
Consensus was reached quickly at this historic meeting on the need for a national coordinating and policy influencing organization that could speak for growers and protect their interests. The decision was made to form a farmer’s council within the Organic Foods Production Association of North America (0FPA1TA), a largely voluntary organization set up to represent the organic foods industry,
Consensus also was reached on what this new grower organization would do. It was agreed that it would 1) develop and articulate priorities for organic growers; 2) influence national policymaking; 3) designate authorized spokespersons; 4.) encourage networking between existing organic organizations, and 5) carry out liaison activities with other organizations that shared an interest in organic farming.
Within weeks the council was fully enraged in the legislative process. Although it had no paid staff, it established a national communications network and consensus-building process and played a significant role in shaping national organic standards legislation and building the coalition that pushed it through Congress.
Late in 1990 OFPANA decided to reorganize as a trade association to represent the interests of retailers, manufacturers, handlers, and others in the organic foods industry. The farmer’s council at the same time recognized the need for a clear, effective voice for organic farmers and decided to incorporate as a non-profit organic grower organization. While OFPANA and OPAC have many common goals, they also have important and legitimate differences. These differences require effective representation of all points of view. OPAC represents a significant sector of the organic movement and its perspective is critical to effective policy formulation and implementation. Organic farmers represented by OPAC work as coalition partners with other sectors of the organic movement but cannot be effectively represented as adjuncts of other interests.
The new Organic Partners Associations Council (OFAC), which had earned both national recognition and strong grower support, participated actively in the nominating process for members of the National Organic Standards Board, the drafting of proposed organic standards, and mobilizing grassroots support for appropriations needed to get the standard-setting process moving.
Although most of OFAC’s energy and attention is focused on national policy and standard setting agenda, the board recognizes the need to develop its institutional framework. It has decided to build this structure at both grassroots and regional levels. A regional structure is being developed in three areas of the country with a $20,000 grant from the Jesse Smith Noyes Foundation. It is an important step in building capacity to establish grower groups in areas where none exist and to strengthen those already in place.
Shaping OFAC’s Future Direction.
How that the National Organic Standards Board is up and running, OPAC is turning its attention to the need for development of an overall education, networking, institution building, and fundraising effort. The question before its member organizations is whether success in the policy arena has outrun its institutional capability. Decisions about whether O^AC should continue as a grassroots organization relying on volunteers or whether it needs more structure and paid staff members will determine its program and institution building choices.
These decisions also will determine whether OFAC is positioned to respond to new challenges. These include the need to monitor and influence the rulemaking activities of the National Organic Standards Board, encourage the development of community-supported agriculture organizations, react to international organic standards initiatives, coordinate its activities with sustainable agriculture working groups being organized nationwide, and prepare for re-authorization of the organic title of the farm bill in 1999.
Proposed Evaluation and Planning Initiative.
OPAC is requesting $7,565 from the Ruth Mott Foundation to bring representatives of its member organizations together in July for an intensive two-cay evaluation and planning meeting. Full support will be provided for OFAC’s board members. Partial support will be provided for up to 10 representatives of small and emerging member organizations.
The meeting will utilize a long-range planning and priority setting process developed for non-profit organizations by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. It will be facilitated by John Matthews, OPAC’s president and a non-profit organization trainer who uses this process.
On the first day the participants will be taken through a consensus building process that begins with an exploration of shared values, continues with an evaluation of progress made since the Leavenworth meeting, moves to a discussion of a renewed commitment to OFAC’s goals and objectives, and ends with a review of specific management and leadership requirements needed to implement agreed-on goals and objectives.
The second day will begin with a detailed examination of OFAC’s structure and its ability to carry out agreed-on goals and objectives. The final session will focus on development of overall strategy for the next five years and a specific action plan for the coming year. It will include specific task and timeline commitments for fundraising, membership development, and other program elements.
John Mathews (biographical information attached) will coordinate the project. Kate Havel (biographical information attached) will handle administrative details. The consultant is Roger Blobaum, a resource person at the Leavenworth meeting and continuing OPAC adviser.
Coordinator and Facilitator (8 days © $300) $2,400.00
Consultant (l 1/2 days © $200) $300.00
Air fare for 12 board members 4,200.00
Lodging for 13 board members 663.00
Heals for 13 board members 527.00
Lodging for 10 council members 510.00
Meals for 10 council members 405.00
(Includes phone, copying, etc.) 500.00
Administration of Funds (5%) 360.00
Totals $7,650.00 $2,400.00