Organic Check Off will generally only apply to USDA NOP Certified Organic Products

Organic Check Off will generally only apply to USDA NOP Certified Organic Products

The Organic Check Off Program which many of you may have read about and which is described in more detail below, will, in general, only apply to USDA NOP certified organic cotton fiber and NOT TO FINISHED TEXTILE GOODS, the latter having been processed and no longer qualifying for the USDA Organic label

Checkoff Programs Fund Industry Marketing Campaigns
You have heard of the “Got Milk” – and “The Incredible Edible Egg” – and of course – “The Touch, the Feel of Cotton – The Fabric of our Lives”. Ever wondered who pays for these? These are educational programs that are paid for by check-off programs[1]. There are about 20 check-off programs – Pork, Milk, Eggs, Almonds – even Christmas Trees. The check-off programs are designed to support domestic production as well as research and promotion. The organic checkoff goals would be to:

  • Education Consumers
  • Distinguish organic from unregulated claims (natural)
  • Confirm the science
  • Undertake Research
  • Bring New Farmers into Organic
  • Reduce the Supply Crunch by supporting Transitional production

Under the proposed program, Organic farmers and handlers would pay one-tenth of one percent of their net organic sales to support the Organic Check-off. It is estimated by the proponents of the program that an organic checkoff could raise over $30 million each year to advance organic!! This fee is based on total gross sales minus the cost of certified organic goods. Based on current information, it is estimated that the impact of the proposed organic checkoff on US organic cotton producers represents a small increase in their costs. It should be noted that smaller organic farmers and handlers with revenue under $250,000 could choose to voluntarily participate in the Organic Check-off.
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How it could impact the Textile Community
This regulation would only impact products that are certified to the USDA NOP Standard. It will impact all organic food agricultural products as well as processed food products. The harvested cotton, in bale form, is certified to this standard, so the raw fibre would be subject to this checkoff. However – this will NOT impact any processed fibre products. Processed fibre products are certified to voluntary standards such as GOTS or TE’s OCS. For a fibre product to qualify for the USDA Organic logo – all processing would also have to meet the food processing standards and to date, we are not aware of any products which have been approved for such certification[2].

It should be noted, that importers of any cotton product are also required to pay the current conventional cotton check-off on every bale equivalent that comes into the U.S. According to The Cotton Board’s most recently available Annual Report for the year ending December 31, 2015, The Cotton Board collected USD 75.5 million in total assessments comprised of USD 36.1 million in Producer assessments and USD 39.4 million in Importer assessments. The average assessment was USD 2.44 per bale.

Textile Exchange Board of Directors vote to support the Organic Check Off
Organic Trade Association has been working more than five years to lead this initiative to gain stakeholder support and has petitioned USDA to implement an organic check-off. At the present time, USDA has published a proposed rule and this is open for comments.

The complete text of the proposed rule is available for review on the Federal Register, or you can find a summary of the program and an excerpt of the proposed regulation here. There is a fast and easy way to submit a comment to USDA supporting the Organic Check-off on However, if you’d like to submit a custom comment you can also go online to and search for AMS-SC-16-0112.
After the public comments period, the USDA would publish the final rule and the hold and Organic Check Off referendum. With an approved rule, the USDA would appoint an industry governed board.

Let us know if you would like to sign on to the TE letter. Here is a link to indicate that you support the check off as well. Nearly 1400 Organic Stakeholders publicly support the Organic Check-off and 75 %of the over 1,200 certified organic operations are farmers and ranchers.

[1] The U.S. cotton industry operates a government-established program to enhance the profit- ability of U.S. cotton production through generic advertising and promotional activities intended to expand the demand for cotton. Operated by the Cotton Board, the so-called cotton checkoff program is financed by an assessment on domestic cotton sales and imports.

[2] The only cotton products that might meet this requirement would be non-woven medical or hygiene products having the only processing aid of H2O.

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