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Public Servant / Organic Champion Award

The Organic Trade Association's Public Servant / Organic Champion Award was established in 2009 to recognize and honor individuals in government who have been supportive of organic agriculture and trade. The award is presented at OTA’s Policy Conference and Hill Visit Days in Washington, D.C. 

Congressman Peter DeFazio

2022 Organic Champion Award 

In 1990, then junior Congressmember Peter DeFazio (D-OR) did the unthinkable – he dug in his heels for a farm bill amendment that he knew was opposed by both the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee. Against the odds, that amendment – the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) – passed and the National Organic Program was born. Representative DeFazio would spend the next 30 years building on that bold act and cementing his place in history as an organic champion. The Organic Trade Association recognizes DeFazio with the 2022 Organic Champion award for his decades of leadership and support.  

“I’m honored to receive the Organic Champion Award from the Organic Trade Association. In 1990, I was proud to author the bill that established the National Organic Program, which ensures that when consumers buy food labeled as organic, they can trust it truly is. Consumers know that when food has the USDA Organic label, it meets a high national standard. Over my time in Congress, I’ve continued my support of the organic industry by helping provide robust funding for federal programs as well as fighting to maintain the integrity of the organic label. I thank the Organic Trade Association for this award.”   

- Congressman Peter DeFazio

Read our Press Release

Kelly Strzelecki

2021 Public Servant Award Honoree

Organic Trade Association recognizes Kelly Strzelecki for outstanding service to organic. The Organic Trade Association honored Kelly Strzelecki, Senior Trade Advisor for the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, with its 2021 Organic Public Servant Award in recognition of her outstanding efforts to promote and facilitate a meaningful public-private partnership for the organic industry through trade during her many years at USDA.

“Kelly has worked tirelessly through the years to expand organic exports and to create valuable new markets for our organic farmers and businesses. Kelly’s commitment to organic has made a real positive difference in enabling the organic sector to thrive and advance. Helped greatly by her stewardship over the past two decades, American organic exports now total close to $650 million every year, and consumers all over the world are benefitting. We are truly honored to be presenting this award to Kelly.”

- Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association

Read our Press Release

Congressman Dan Newhouse and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree

2019 Organic Champions

The Organic Trade Association’s Organic Champion Award recognizes and honors individuals in government who have been supportive of organic agriculture and trade. Recipients are chosen upon the recommendation of trade association staff, and then voted on by the Board of Directors. This year, Newhouse and Pingree were selected for their collaborative efforts to advance organic in the 2018 Farm Bill and through their work on annual appropriations legislation that funds the National Organic Program and organic transitions research program.

Although Congressman Newhouse of the state of Washington and Congresswoman Pingree of Maine come from opposite sides of the country and serve in different political parties, they have a lot in common. Both are farmers. They currently serve as co-chairs of the House Organic Caucus, and have been strong leaders in advancing organic policy on Capitol Hill. Both have served on the Agriculture Committee, and currently serve on the Appropriations Committee together.

“It is an honor to be named an Organic Champion with my colleague, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree,” said Rep. Newhouse. “Washington’s organic agriculture greatly contributes to the economies of both our state and our nation. I am proud to have a partner in Chellie who understands the importance of strong, bipartisan support for one of the fastest-growing sectors of agriculture.”

“I feel honored to receive the 2019 Organic Champion Award, especially next to my colleague Congressman Dan Newhouse,” said Rep. Pingree. “I’ve been an organic farmer for more than 40 years, and my experiences deeply influence my policy views. I see it as my job to advocate for policies that support promising market opportunities for farmers, including in the organic sector. Congressman Newhouse and I see beyond party lines when it comes to supporting organic farmers across our country.”

Their joint introduction of the Organic Agriculture Research Act of 2018 led to permanent baseline funding for OREI, more than double the current funding for organic research. This historic investment in organic research was one of the biggest victories for organic in any farm bill ever.

Congressman Rodney Davis

2018 Organic Champion Award Honoree

Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL) was awarded OTA's 2018 Organic Champion Award for his excellence in advancing organic agriculture through public service. Congressman Davis has been a lead advocate for the organic industry at a critical time, ensuring that the next Farm Bill advances and supports organic agriculture and moves the industry forward. Under his leadership as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research of the House Agriculture Committee which has jurisdiction of organic agriculture, the 2018 Committee- passed Farm Bill contained the industry’s top priorities, including increased oversight over organic imports, the first funding increase for organic research in a decade, and full funding for organic data and market collection.

“I have many organic farms and farmers in my district and my amendment to the Farm Bill increases protections for their products by ensuring the National Organic Standards Board can do its job effectively. Additionally, the Farm Bill places higher scrutiny on organic imports to ensure the products consumers are purchasing are actually organic. I am honored to receive this award and I will continue to fight for organic integrity in our markets.”
                             --Congressman Rodney Davis at OTA's 2018 Policy Conference

Senator Jeff Merkley

2016 Public Servant Award Honoree

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) was awarded OTA's 2016 Public Servant Award to recognize his critical work to protect organic standards. As the Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Merkley has long been a champion of funding for organic priorities. He has also been a steadfast champion of maintaining the integrity of the organic rulemaking process – in particular, during spring 2016, he was the critical backstop who prevented the introduction of an amendment that would have delayed the National Organic Program from finalizing and implementing the Livestock and Poultry Practices proposed rule.

“What we see across America is a growing movement of people who want to be thoughtful about how they eat...they are voting more and more in favor of buying and consuming organic foods...I've been excited to help champion this effort.” 
                                --Senator Jeff Merkley at OTA's 2016 Policy Conference

Senator Merkley also serves on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee; the Environment and Public Works Committee; and the Budget Committee. He was elected to the Senate in 2008. Prior to becoming a United States Senator, he served in the Oregon State House of Representatives (including as Speaker).

Senator Debbie Stabenow

2014 Public Servant Award Honoree

Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan was awarded OTA's 2014 Public Servant Award for her outstanding and critical support of the organic industry throughout her career. Sen. Stabenow, the Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, plays a pivotal role in crafting federal agricultural policy and shepherding its passage. Her leadership has led to a historic new focus on organic priorities in the 2014 Farm Bill that was passed earlier this year.

“We want you to be successful and we want you to grow the economy as well as grow your products and make your product.” Stabenow told the attendees of the policy conference, who represented the entire swath of the diverse organic industry. “I believe we will have a strong economy with the success of your industry.” 
                                --Senator Debbie Stabenow at OTA's 2014 Policy Conference

Stabenow was first elected to Congress in 1996 and the Senate in 2000. When the Farm Bill was being drafted in 2012 and again in 2013, Stabenow was a strong advocate for organic, including the technical fixes regarding organic research and promotion orders, funding for a technology upgrade at the National Organic Program, and funding for data collection. Stabenow also played a critical role in ensuring that a new Farm Bill was passed, not just an extension of the previous legislation as happened in 2012 and 2013. Without her strong leadership, American agriculture as a whole could still be drifting from extension to extension. Read OTA's full press release.

Congressman Sam Farr

2012 Public Servant Award Honoree

Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA) has been a member of Congress since 1993 and a major supporter of the organic sector for more than three decades. He has provided strong, continuous leadership on issues facing the organic industry through his roles as co-chair of the House Organic Caucus and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Agriculture.

“OTA’s Board of Directors is honored to recognize Congressman Sam Farr with OTA’s Public Servant Award for his unwavering support and advocacy for organic farmers and the organic sector.”  
                           --Melody Meyer, Vice President of Global Initiatives for UNFI  

Congressman Farr has successfully championed funding for programs critical to the organic sector including the National Organic Program, as well as research and data collection. The organic sector has grown by double-digits over the last two decades, and Congressman Farr’s support of the regulatory, research and market data collection at USDA has enabled the industry to grow, create jobs and provide consumer choice in the marketplace.

Senator Sherrod Brown

2011 Public Servant Award Honoree

Senator Sherrod Brown, a first-term Democrat from Ohio, received OTA’s highest award for a public servant in 2011 for playing a key role in OTA’s legislative successes during 2010. Senator Brown sponsored the Organic Pilot Program, added to the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act by the Senate Agriculture Committee without opposition. This program authorizes $10 million for competitive grants for schools to incorporate organic foods in their meal offerings. Additionally, he and his staff worked to ensure that organic interests were included in the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. Specifically, he included an amendment to the traceability and record-keeping section of the bill to allow for food directly marketed from farmers to consumers or to grocery stores and food labeled with the identity of the farm which produced it. That amendment also prevents FDA from requiring any farm to keep records beyond the first point of sale when the product leaves the farm, except when farms co-mingle product from multiple farms.

Congressman Collin Peterson

2010 Public Servant Award Honoree

Rep. Collin Peterson (MN-7), former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, received OTA’s highest award for a public servant in 2010. Congressman Peterson was recognized in large part for championing the organic provisions developed by OTA for inclusion in the 2008 Farm Bill. These provisions supported the growth of domestic organic agriculture through funding for research, data collection, and cost-share certification, as well as for additional money for the National Organic Program.
OTA was truly excited at this opportunity to honor Congressman Peterson for his assistance in growing this sector of our nation’s food supply. He has been a strong supporter of organic agriculture, and played a vital role in shaping the 2008 Farm Bill to give organic the largest gains, both in mandatory and discretionary spending, that it has ever gotten.

Violet Batcha
Director of Marketing and Communications
(202) 524-3889