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OTA Hires Gov’t Affairs VP and Director

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) has hired Kelley Poole as its VP of government affairs and Megan DeBates for the new position of director of legislative affairs and coalitions. Both will begin working for the trade association in January 2017 to help introduce organic food and farming to a new administration and Congress, and both will be based in OTA’s Washington, D.C., office.

Poole’s most recent role was director of government relations for Washington, D.C.-based Verto Solutions LLC, where she provided oversight of federal legislative, public policy and regulatory activities in the United States and internationally for various food industry associations. Previously, she worked in the Bush administration in several capacities, including special assistant to the undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services and director of legislative and public affairs for rural development while assigned to the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 2003 to 2009. Prior to that, she provided strategic planning and insight for communications and events for the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Trade & Development Agency, and the U.S. Department of Labor, and was a White House press advance representative to President George W. Bush, Mrs. Laura Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Before moving to D.C., Poole was chief cabinet aide to the Florida commissioner of agriculture and staff director for the Florida Senate Majority Office.

DeBates was previously senior legislative assistant to U.S. Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (Ore.-D) a co-writer of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, which established national organic standards. She has advised and helped develop legislative strategy for DeFazio on key agriculture, defense, trade, foreign affairs, small business, homeland security and natural resource policy issues. She has also served as the lead staffer for the House Organic Caucus.

“As an important part of diverse agriculture, organic continues to be at the table on agriculture, food and fiber policy issues,” said OTA Executive Director/CEO Laura Batcha. “We believe that these two additions to our staff will aid us in our work with policymakers to make the voices and perspectives of organic heard and respected.”

OTA represents more than 8,500 organic businesses across 50 states, with members encompassing growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants and retailers.

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