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The Organic Trade Association (OTA), previously known as the the Organic Foods Production Association of North America, was created in 1985 in the US and Canada. In Canada the association operates under the name of Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA). OTA is a membership-based trade association for the organic industry in North America. OTA represents over 6,500 organic businesses across 49 states in the US (Haumann, 2012). OTA is a member of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) and the International Working Group on Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
The association is comprised of businesses engaged in the production, distribution, certification, and promotion of organic products and the services required to produce them. Their members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others supportive of organic agriculture and trade (OTA, 2012b)
OTA represents businesses involved in the organic supply and deals with all things organic, including food, fiber/textiles, personal care products, and other. More than half of OTA members are small businesses.
There are two types of OTA membership, which are Trade and Associate. Trade Membership is available only for North American-based businesses and organizations, which are involved with organic products. Businesses, organizations and individuals that are not eligible for Trade Membership, but who support the ideology of organic agriculture, can become Associate members. OTA’s Board of Directors is democratically elected by its members
“OTA’smission istopromote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy” (Haumann, 2012, n. pag.). The association strives to expand the amount of organic agricultural land to benefit the planet as well as the people. In order to support the development of organic farming, processing and handling, OTA works on different levels, by influencing the regulatory and market environment for organic products. The association advocates and protects the organic standards to ensure consumer confidence in certified organic products, and keeps improving the organic standards for new up-and-coming product sectors. OTA observes the work of government bodies which involves legislations that influence the organic agriculture and products, and may argue the legislations that are conflicting with organic agriculture development.
OTA attempts to increase market for organic products, by explaining the benefits of organic to the public through press releases, media newsletters and a consumer web site. The association also uses marketing programs, such as ‘Go Organic! For Earth Day’, and endorses Organic Harvest Month in September, in order to promote organic products. OTA facilitates organic market growth, through its membership directory ‘The Organic Pages’ which helps “connecting buyers and sellers of organic products and services, from farm to retail” (OTA, 2012a, n. pag.). The association also publishes an Export Directory, available online, that facilitates international buyers who want to purchase organic products from the US. OTA supports scientific research in organic production and processing. “Research-based information on the environmental, health, and nutritional impacts of organic agriculture and its products is critical for the small organic industry”. (OTA, 2012a,)