Wisconsin Organic Advisory Council
The Wisconsin Organic Advisory Council (OAC) is a private sector body appointed by the Agriculture Board to advise agriculture agencies on organic agriculture issues.
The Advisory Council was established in response to recommendations by the 2004 Governor's Task Force on Organic Agriculture (see link under “History” below). A cooperating Interagency Team composed of representatives of major state and federal agriculture agencies meets with the Council. The group first met in February 2006.
Agendas and minutes of Organic Advisory Council meetings are posted on the following website: www.organic.wisc.edu.
The Wisconsin Organic Advisory Council brings together public and private resources to promote Wisconsin’s national leadership position in Organic Agriculture. By advising the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and other organizations and agencies on critical organic issues, the council supports organic production, processing, and purchasing opportunities for Wisconsin farmers, processors, and consumers.
The purpose of the Council will be to provide guidance to the Secretary of Agriculture, the Governor, the Legislature, and other state agencies on actions that can be taken to further the Wisconsin organic industry. Member terms are on a three-year rotating basis, with four members going off each year. The Council conducts its business via quarterly all-day meetings.
The Council consists of 12 people representing the spectrum of organic production, processing, and marketing in Wisconsin and will include:
- 3 certified organic farmers, preferably reflecting several types of farms (dairy, vegetable, etc.).
- 3 organic business sector representatives.
- 1 representative of organic consumers.
- 1 representative of a private, non-profit educational organization involved in organic agriculture.
- 1 representative of the certification industry.
- 3 at-large members.
Current Advisory Council Members
Wisconsin Organic Interagency Implementation Team
The twelve Council members serve three year terms with four terms expiring each year. The nomination period takes place in early spring each year, with selections announced in May or June.
Advisory Council Activities
The Advisory Council and Interagency Team meets three to four times annually. It supports growth in the organic sector through Organic Advisory Council sponsored projects, representing organic agriculture on a number of agency committees, developing written recommendations and letters of support, and providing advice and recommendations to agencies and organizations. Click here for a list of Organic Advisory Council accomplishments.
At the July 9, 2013 meeting of the Wisconsin Organic Council in East Troy, members voted to approve and submit comments on the Food and Drug Administration's proposed rules for the Food Safety Modernization Act. The two letters provide comments on the Standards for Produce and Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption. Copies of the letters are available here.
Overall Organic Advisory Council Priorities
- Enhance consumer understanding of the value of organic.
- Highlight differences between organic and natural.
- Provide education for Wisconsin policymakers.
Organic Integrity Issues
- Assist in the identification of organic crop contamination by GMOs.
- Maintain the integrity of organic products and identify inappropriate use of the organic label.
Production education/technical assistance for farmers
- Enhance the capacity of Universities and Colleges to provide training in organic agriculture and processing.
- Expand communication and networking capacity among organic farmers and with transitioning farmers.
- Encourage education for transitioning and established organic farmers.
- Address confusion among farmers with regard to which materials are allowed for use in organic production.
Marketing education/technical assistance for farmers
- Increase expertise in marketing among organic farmers, processors, and handlers.
- Improve access to marketing opportunities for organic farmers.
Processor education, technical assistance, and capacity building
- Expand accessibility of information regarding organic certification for processors and handlers.
- Address regulatory barriers to small-scale and specialty processing businesses.
- Increase organic processing capacity of all sizes throughout Wisconsin.
In 2004, Governor Doyle set a goal for Wisconsin to "lead the nation in organic agriculture." On March 15 of that year, he convened an Organic Summit to begin a dialogue between the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, the University of Wisconsin College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the organic industry in the state to determine how to accomplish this goal. Participants included organic farmers and companies, lenders, and representatives of the certification industry. The Summit resulted in creation of the Organic Agriculture Task Force to study the issues and develop a set of recommendations for fostering growth in the organic agriculture sector.
The Task Force met four times in 2004, resulting in a report to the governor on February 25, 2005.
Task Force Report
The report laid out a roadmap to leadership in organic production and processing. Priorities identified by the Task Force included creation of an educational and promotional program for Wisconsin organic products; establishment of programs that facilitate networking among organic farmers; development of coursework, degree programs and research on organic agriculture at the University of Wisconsin and the state Technical College System; and providing support and technical assistance for enhancing processing capacity within the state.
The report laid out actions to facilitate progress toward these tasks including establishment of a private sector Wisconsin Organic Advisory Council and an Inter-Agency Implementation Team to lead the effort, and the creation of an organic specialist position at DATCP and at the University of Wisconsin. As of 2006, all four of the Task Force’s action items have been accomplished.
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Division of Agricultural Development
2811 Agriculture Drive
PO Box 8911
Madison, WI 53708
Dr. Erin Silva
UW-Madison Department of Plant Pathology
683 Russell Labs