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Organic Trade Association Organic Trade Association

The hemp opportunity: OTA looks at how organic fits in

Organic Trade Association’s annual conference day offers in-depth looks at skyrocketing hemp market, access to organic and other industry concerns.

Industrialized hemp became legal in the U.S. with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, and it is already a $1-billion market with sales projected to double by 2022. But hemp is a highly regulated and complex crop to grow and market.

The Organic Trade Association’s Bold Ideas & Critical Conversations 2019 annual conference on May 22 will sort through the marketing and regulatory details of this new market and take a deep-dive look at the opportunity for the organic sector to take an early leadership position in this fast-growing sector.

The conference is scheduled as part of the association’s Organic Week, May 20-23, in Washington, D.C.

Member day is scheduled for May 20 at OTA headquarters. There, association members will hear updates on industry issues, discuss concerns, prepare for advocacy day on May 21 and more. Breakout sessions will cover social media, climate change, best labeling practices, supplements, the Farm Bill and how to work with the media.

Advocacy day, May 21, is the day for sharing with legislators and staff the importance of the organic industry regarding jobs, sales growth and consumer demand. The day closes with a reception.

political analyst David Wasserman of The Cook Political ReportOn conference day, May 22, the conference’s keynote speaker, political analyst David Wasserman, will provide an insider’s look at the 2020 presidential campaign. Wasserman, who correctly predicted the results of the 2016 election, is an editor for the non-partisan publication, The Cook Political Report.

A wide variety of discussions and breakout sessions are available for attendees.

The Hemp Opportunity track will feature three educational sessions: a high-level explanation of terminologies and a review of how the law of the land changed with the Farm Bill passage; a comprehensive look at the evolving regulatory framework for hemp; and a panel of organic hemp growers from diverse growing regions and backgrounds who will share their unique experiences in getting into this new market.

Confirmed moderators and speakers for the sessions include Gwendolyn Wyard, vice president of regulatory and technical affairs for the Organic Trade Association; Rend Al-Mondhiry, senior counsel at Amin Talati Upadhye and an expert on ingredient and labeling issues for dietary supplement and food industries; Jonathan Miller, attorney with Frost, Brown and Todd and legal counsel for the U.S. Hemp Roundtable; Steven Hoffman, founder and managing director of Compass Natural; and Chris Jagger, an organic hemp grower in Oregon.

“The organic sector can get an early and profitable foothold into the hemp market, but it first needs to understand the regulations, develop and communicate agronomic best practices, and establish the infrastructure necessary to bring the crop to market,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of the Organic Trade Association.

To address Scaling with Integrity & Organic Values, former Trade Ambassador Darci Vetter and Civil Eats founder Naomi Starkman will discuss consumer trust and how to flourish without compromising organic standards. Other discussion participants include Jeff Huckaby, president and CEO of Cal-Organic/Grimmway Farms; Melissa Hughes, chief mission officer and general counsel, Organic Valley; Deverl Maserang, president, Earthbound Farm; and Carla Vernon, president of natural and organic at General Mills.

Three sessions are scheduled for the Access/Equity track, which examines the accessibility of organic and maintaining organic growers’ viability: Democratizing Organic, Organic & Urban Culture, and Protecting Farmer Prices.

Other breakout sessions during the conference look at finding your brand’s activism strategy; strategies to reward farmers who follow regenerative agriculture and other practices that mitigate climate change; and the role of capital in organic’s future.

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