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The Seed We Need - Working Group, Symposium, and Action Plan for the Advancement of Organic Seed Systems


The overall goal is to increase success and minimize risks for organic producers by advancing the viability of organic seed systems, and removing obstacles in availability and appropriateness of organic seed. This is a critical need for organic producers, resulting in difficulty and anxiety in the development of an Organic System Plan, and preventing the attainment of full agronomic and market potential. <P>This gap in organic systems must be addressed not only through breeding and increased oversight, but also by convening producers and other stakeholders to create an action plan to advance the viability of organic seed systems.<P> Long term goals in addition to the stated overall goal: 1) improve organic farmers and agricultural professionals (certifiers, seed industry, extension, researchers) understanding of concerns, obstacles and realistic potentials in organic seed systems; 2) enhance public-private partnerships and farmer collaboration in the development of organic seed systems that fit social, agronomic, market, and regulatory needs; and 3) improve organic producers' abilities to meet NOP requirement for use of certified organic seed.<P> Supporting outreach objectives are: <ul><LI> Convene the Organic Seed Working Group, with representation by farmers, certifying agencies, seed sector, organic food sector, university researchers/extension, and NGOs. Representatives will work collaboratively and systematically to identify concerns, obstacles, and opportunities in the implementation and success of organic seed systems, formulating a draft report and action plan that: 1) refines and builds on the seed specific objectives of the 2009 National Organic Action Plan; 2) creates 5 year and 10 year timelines for long-term deliverables; and 3) outlines partnership and funding strategies for implementation of the work. <LI> Host an Organic Seed Symposium, organized by the Organic Seed Working Group to: 1) solicit broad stakeholder feedback and refine the initial draft of the State of Organic Seed Report and Action Plan; 2) create ongoing working groups that are issue specific; and 3) develop long term partnership and funding strategies. Those unable to attend the Symposium will be able to submit pre-conference written comments, via the OSA web site, to be included as part of the discussion in the Symposium working sessions. <LI> Publish and Disseminate the State of Organic Seed Report and Action Plan, developed by a broad and diverse body of stakeholders in the organic community. The report will provide an in-depth analysis of the current organic seed sector and articulate a clear action plan with metrics to make improvements and overcome challenges. It will include: 1) farmer-led seed initiatives; 2) strengths and success by region and crop type; 3) white papers on monitoring genetic contamination at the seed level; 4) recommendations for the seed industry on reporting contamination; 5) action plans for the realistic development of initiatives to further address crop and region specific needs; and 5) a guidance document for public and private sector plant breeders on the agronomic, market based, and social value needs of organic producers.

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Non-Technical Summary: Organic seed systems are a recognized area in need of improvement within organic systems, by OREI priorities, National Organic Standards Board, National Organic Action Plan, and at a grassroots level in national and regional organic farm publications, online journals, and at conferences. The projects overall goal is to increase success and minimize risks for organic producers by advancing the viability of organic seed systems, and removing obstacles in availability and appropriateness of organic seed. We have letters of participation from a diverse Organic Seed Working Group (16 members) made up of organic producers, processors, seed industry, NGOs, University representation and other stakeholders. This group will develop a draft State of Organic Seed Report and Action plan that describes current successes, articulates hurdles and outlines a framework to advance the viability of organic seed systems, and that will be refined through the solicitation of feedback on national level. This draft document will provide a template for a working symposium on organic seed to be held in conjunction with the 2010 Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference. Stakeholder participants of the symposium will further refine the working document through breakout sessions covering specific categorical issues. The symposium will also be a venue for building long-term partnerships and task groups to continue the work of advancing organic seed systems. The final draft of the State of the Seed Report and Action Plan will be published in May of 2010 and distributed widely by Organic Seed Working Group partners. This project will serve university research and extension, seed industry, NGOs, certifying agencies, policy makers, and above all organic producers and processors whom these sectors serve. <P> Approach: OSA and its Organic Seed Working Group members are developing a dynamic and participatory methodology and process. An inclusive and committed dialogue between the grassroots (producers) and grasstops (professionals) stakeholder groups is necessary for the success of this project and implementation of the action plan. These stakeholders must not only participate in the dialogue and symposium, they must endorse the action plan and remain engaged, investing in the action plan goals via continued discussion and working partnerships. Working within a relatively short time table, the working group will draft an outline of the process and the plan, and immediately solicit input from the broader community. The initial draft of the State of Organic Seed Report and Action Plan will be used as a guide in developing the symposium agenda and the breakout working sessions. Upon completion of this initial draft of the report/action plan, OSA will post it on their web site. Partners will link to this, and all members will solicit input from their mailing lists, list serves, and constituencies where appropriate. The OSA web site will allow individuals and organizations to provide input directly on the web site, and will be viewable by others. Stakeholder input will be incorporated into a new draft that will then be presented at the 2010 Organic Seed Symposium at the Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference for refinement. The Symposium will be a mix of key presentations followed by working group breakout sessions. Organic Seed Working Group partners will deliver summaries of the process, and an overview of the draft report/action plan. Working sessions will divide into categories to be determined during planning of the symposium by the Organic Seed Working Group. It is necessary to first develop a more integrated picture of the issues before moving into this level of detail; this cannot occur until partners and stakeholders articulate all concerns. Regardless of the categories, the expected format for working sessions will be a facilitated discussion in order to refine the report/plan. Organic Seed Alliance will oversee a final draft of report/plan with review by partners prior to publishing. [See Outreach section below for dissemination plans.] The report/plan will include SMART (Specific; Measurable; Actionable; Relevant; Timely) objectives with benchmarks and timelines. Organic Seed Alliance has a mission-based commitment to on-going and periodic evaluation of our collective progress on the plan beyond the life of the grant, as well as re-calibration of the plan at annual meetings at existing organic conferences. Organic Seed Working Group partners and symposium participants will be encouraged to maintain a working relationship with OSA to engage in ongoing assessments as to the incorporation of action items.

Dillon, Matthew
Organic Seed Alliance
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