Melissa Hughes, General Counsel and Director of Government Affairs for dairy cooperative Organic Valley, has been re-elected as President of the Organic Trade Association’s Board of Directors by fellow board members as part of the association’s 2016 general member election. This is the third year in a row for Hughes to serve as OTA President after being re-elected by OTA membership to serve her second three-year term on the board.
“I am honored by this vote of confidence from OTA membership and from my fellow board members,” said Hughes. “The organic sector has many challenges to tackle, and organic has to have a voice at the table to effectively address those challenges. OTA’s hard work has given us this voice, and I’m optimistic we’ll continue to help organic strengthen and advance.”
Other officers announced at OTA’s Annual Meeting held September 21 in Baltimore include Kim Dietz of J.M. Smucker Company as Vice President—USA, Sarah Bird of Bhakti Chai as Secretary, and Tony Bedard of Frontier Co-op as Treasurer.
In the recent election, Leslie Zuck of Pennsylvania Certified Organic was also re-elected, while Doug Crabtree of Vilicus Farms was elected to his first term on the board.
The OTA Board selected Marci Zaroff of Under the Canopy to fill an appointed term, and Ryan Benn of Alive Publishing Group Inc. has been appointed for another year by the Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA) to represent Canadian interests on the OTA Board for a one-year term.
Completing the board are Samantha Cabaluna of Earthbound Farm, Jesse Laflamme of Pete and Gerry’s Organics, David Lively of Organically Grown Company, Melody Meyer of UNFI, Kelly Shea of WhiteWave Foods and Perry Clutts of Pleasantview Farm.
“The diversity of the OTA Board reflects the diversity of OTA membership,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of OTA. “Our board members are all visionaries, as is every member of OTA. We have laid out an ambitious plan for organic for the next 15 years, and I know our board will get us closer to achieving that vision.”
OTA thanked departing board members Rick Collins of Clif Bar & Company and Dag Falck of Nature’s Path for their contributions while on the board.
OTA is a membership organization, and its trade members have the opportunity to nominate and elect members of the board of directors. OTA elections are held in rotating cycles with new members serving three-year terms. In 2017, there will be three elected and two appointed seats. Anyone interested in adding their name to the slate should contact OTA.
Also during OTA’s Annual Meeting, Carmela Beck of Driscoll’s received OTA’s 2016 Member of the Year Award. This special recognition, driven by OTA staff and endorsed by OTA’s board, was created to honor a truly engaged member.
Over the years, Beck has proven to be a world-class member of the trade association. Each year, she leads Hill visit teams as part of OTA’s Policy Conference and is an enthusiastic supporter of Organic PAC. She has been an Annual Fund volunteer, and a valuable contributor on the international front, joining an OTA mission to Mexico to educate the Mexican government, industry and consumers on the U.S. organic industry and the National Organic Standards Board. She has been an active participant in OTA-led trainings with the Mexican SAGARPA and SENSICIA agencies, and co-presented with OTA at Expo Orgánico, Mexico’s largest organic-only event.
“Driscoll’s has been a long-term OTA member and I have been an active member since 2010. Driscoll’s Organic Program has grown to 15 percent of our business and will only continue to dramatically increase in the coming years. As OTA members we have relied heavily on the OTA for its leadership, expertise, advocacy, education, marketing and messaging capabilities,” said Beck. “I am very honored by this recognition, and I look forward to continuing our collaboration and our life’s work.”
OTA’s Annual Meeting and the annual Organic Leadership Awards dinner this year were held at the Columbus Center in Baltimore in conjunction with Natural Products Expo East. The event drew hundreds of OTA members to pay tribute to outstanding OTA members and to celebrate the strongest growth in OTA membership in five years. A total of 216 organic farmers and organic businesses have joined OTA in the twelve months since the 2015 awards dinner. OTA membership now represents more than 8,500 organic businesses and operations in every state of the union, from small organic producers to major growers, from local family-run organic operations to nationwide companies.