Highlights from #OrganicWeekDC

White House Garden Tour during #OrganicWeekDC

The Organic Trade Association brought its Board of Directors and representatives from The Organic Center and the Organic Political Action Committee (PAC) Boards on a tour of the White House Garden in conjunction with OTA’s 2016 Policy Conference in D.C. in May.

Above, left, on the garden tour. Above right, Deb Eschmeyer, an Ohio farmer and the Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy at the White House, poses with Mark Lipson of the University of California at Santa Cruz. Eschmeyer guided the group on a tour of the garden and nearby bee hive. She shared the project’s no pesticide” approach and explained how White House chefs use produce from the garden for preparing meals for the First Family, as well as for official functions like state dinners.

A Day for members to connect

OTA held over 15 back-to-back meetings the day preceding its May Policy Conference, with members gathering to discuss government affairs, international trade, the organic supply situation and a host of other sector-specific issues. At the end of the day, members reported out on each of the meetings in an engaging rapid-fire presentation: ranging from producer challenges from the Farmers Advisory Council, an exploratory Consumers Advisory Council meeting, an update on OTA’s Grain, Pulse and Oilseed Council, what OTA’s Organic Political Action Committee is doing, task force reports on international trade, and networking meetings. Below, Board member Rick Collins of Clif Bar takes the microphone to share highlights from the Board meeting.

Seeing the Board work first hand

By Katrina Heinze | Organic Ambassador, General Mills

In May, I had the opportunity to attend the Organic Trade Association (OTA) Board of Directors meeting as a non-board member observer. Every year, OTA opens its two in-person Board meetings for all members to observe. As a non-Board member, I have made a regular practice of attending these bi-annual open to member” Board meetings.

A key topic of conversation at the May Board meeting was the possible Appropriations Rider being considered in the Senate that would prohibit the USDA from implementing the recent proposed rule to clarify existing federal organic regulations related to animal welfare standards. The Board expressed concern about bypassing the National Organic Standards Board public comment process and the impact that would have on consumer confidence in organic. Hearing Board Members’ concerns about consumer confidence helped me understand how important this topic was even to companies that aren’t involved in animal products and gave me confidence that the Board was thinking broadly about what is needed to promote and protect Organic.

This isn’t the first time I’ve attended one of these open meetings. I find these meetings invaluable as a way to better understand what is happening in our industry and what questions my company should be considering. Questions like…What is the status of the Organic Check-Off/GRO Organic program? How will GMO labeling impact organic farmers and businesses that produce organic foods? How will upcoming legislative or legal issues impact our business? How are our OTA membership and Annual Fund contributions being used? 

So, why should you attend?  Because like me, you may have questions, but better yet, you will hear answers from the OTA Board. OTA is our voice in Washington and around the country working on our behalf on a range of topics and issues as OTA works to promote and protect organic. We are a diverse membership group, and I’ve found that the Board wants to hear from all members about what’s working and where more focus is needed. By attending the Board meeting, you’ll hear the wide variety of perspectives the Board considers and how carefully positions and direction are considered before a decision is made. At the same time, you’ll see how quickly the staff and Board can mobilize to protect organic. Is your perspective represented? Weighed with others as decisions are made? How could you get more involved?  All of these are things you’ll learn at the Board meetings.

In-person meetings are held in conjunction with industry events, like the Natural Products Expos. Check out the calendar at OTA.com for the next opportunity and consider joining me to observe our Board in action. //