Jun 17, 2020
Organic Trade Association seats democratically-elected leaders
In a running start for the 2020-2021 governing year, the Organic Trade Association’s board of directors seated two new members, welcomed back three others, and appointed representatives to serve as leaders on the board and within the association’s affiliated organizations just two days after its record-breaking, first-ever virtual annual meeting for members.
As part of the Organic Trade Association’s democratic election process, each trade member company regardless of size received one vote in the spring election. Additional members were appointed by the board to ensure broad representation and expertise. The seated directors serve the interests of the whole association, and are accountable to the membership in determining the strategic direction and setting the budget for Organic Trade Association priorities.
“We are excited to go forward with such a dedicated group of volunteer leaders who bring distinct expertise and represent diverse aspects of the organic value chain. The board works together with members and staff so that our organization can protect and advance organic farming and trade in a unified voice,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association.
Election results and appointments
New to the Board are Adam Warthesen, Director of Government and Industry Affairs at CROPP Cooperative/Organic Valley, who was elected by members, and Kellee James, Founder and CEO of Mercaris Corporation, chosen to fill an appointed seat.
Incumbents Kim Dietz of Firmenich Inc. and Britt Lundgren of Stonyfield were also re-elected. Meanwhile, Bob Kaake of General Mills (Organic and Natural Technical Director), has been reappointed.
The board chose Kim Dietz (business development director-organics, extracts and sustainability at Firmenich) as its President for the fourth year in a row. Also retaining their positions from the previous governing year, other officers are Tracy Favre of Fig Hill Farm Consulting (Owner), vice president–USA; Britt Lundgren (director of Organic and Sustainable Agriculture at Stonyfield), secretary; Perry Clutts of Pleasantview Farm (owner), treasurer; and Domenic Borrelli of Danone North America (president of Plant-Based Food & Beverages and Premium Dairy) as vice-treasurer.
Other board members are Doug Crabtree of Vilicus Farms (owner), Ben Diesl of Cal-Organic/Grimmway Farms (vice president of quality assurance), Avi Garbow of Patagonia Works (environmental advocate), Karen Jobb of Clif Bar & Company (vice president of sales), David Lively of Organically Grown Company (pioneer emeritus), and Paul Schiefer of Amy’s Kitchen (senior director of sustainability).
Completing their service on the board are outgoing board members Michael Menes, vice president of Food Safety & Technology of inputs manufacturer True Organic Products, and Mark Squire, president of Good Earth Natural Foods. On the board for three years, Menes had been active with the trade association’s Organic Political Action Committee (PAC) and served as its co-chair. Squire also was on the board for three years, and helped drive the creation of the trade association’s Retailer Council, where he sits as chair.
The Canada Organic Trade Association also has a seat on the board. James Sculthorpe of Yorkshire Valley Farms (CEO) holds the role as Vice President-Canada.
Committees and affiliated organizations
Perry Clutts continues to hold the Farmer seat on the board, and co-chairs the Farmers Advisory Council (FAC) along with fellow board member Doug Crabtree of Vilicus Farms. Established in 2013, FAC provides the Organic Trade Association with input from small- and medium-sized organic farmers, ranchers, and growers. It is one of the largest coalitions of organic farmers and organic farming organizations in the United States, representing nearly 8,000 organic livestock, poultry, grain, and specialty crop producers.
Doug Crabtree was appointed to serve as an ex-officio on The Organic Center Board of Trustees. With the Organic Trade Association, the sole member of the non-profit, its board of directors has the responsibility of appointing the Trustees for The Organic Center. The Center partners with established research institutions and universities in the pursuit and achievement of (in)credible science for the public good. This research empowers consumers and helps make organic even better.
Adam Warthesen will serve as the designated board member for Organic PAC. The Organic Trade Association’s Political Action Committee provides financial assistance to candidates for Congress who are influential in protecting and promoting organic food and farming and is the only Political Action Committee dedicated to that end. The strategic work of Organic PAC is critical to positioning organic on the Hill for the future.
All board members also serve on one of three standing committees that determine the full board agenda. The officers make up the board’s executive committee, whose role includes setting annual operational priorities with the executive director, setting key indicators to evaluate effectiveness, and overseeing the trade association’s code of ethics.
The role of the Community Relations Committee includes a review of programs for member involvement, evaluation of dues levels, and selection of the Organic Trade Association’s Leadership Awards. The Community Relations Committee is chaired by David Lively along with vice-chair Paul Schiefer, Karen Jobb, Avi Garbow and Adam Warthesen.
The role of the Governance Committee includes recruitment and orientation of new Board members, evaluation of the election process, review of policies and bylaws, and implementation of board assessment and training. Bob Kaake chairs the Governance Committee along with vice-chair Ben Diesl, Tracy Favre, Doug Crabtree, Domenic Borrelli and Kellee James.
Looking ahead to 2021 election
In 2019, members voted to add two elected seats to diversify the board representation, increasing the trade association’s U.S. board to 15 members. One of the new seats was filled last year, and the second will be filled next year, resulting in five open seats for the next election cycle. In 2021, the trade association will be electing four Directors, and appointing one to the board.
Each year, the Governance Committee performs an assessment to identify any gaps in Board representation. Upcoming priorities for expanding board representation include continued efforts to recruit diverse representatives to the election slate and seeking the next generation of Organic Trade Association leadership. The committee will also look at potential succession plans to ensure there are key people and critical skills on the board to set the association up for success in the future.
“Our trade association is only as strong as our members, so we encourage you to be involved,” said Kim Dietz, board president, to hundreds of members during the annual meeting held virtually last week.
Above, Laura Batcha. Photo: Erika Nizborski