Key players and stakeholders in the organic industry will discuss the critical challenges and opportunities facing the U.S. organic sector on April 15 at the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA) Annual Policy Conference at the Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, in Washington.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, U.S. Trade Representative Chief Agricultural Negotiator Ambassador Darci Vetter, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Jon Tester (D-MT), Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Appropriations Committee Cong. Sam Farr (D-CA), USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Anne Alonzo, along with a wide swath of organic industry leaders from the private sector and innovative and influential organic producers from across the country will speak at the annual summit. The theme of this year’s event is “There’s More to Organic Than Meets the Eye.”

OTA Executive Director and CEO Laura Batcha will release the results of OTA’s annual organic industry survey in her “State of the Organic Industry” presentation. The findings of a first-of-its-kind OTA-commissioned study on the international trade of organic will also be released at the conference.

There will be an early pre-conference session for the attending press on Wednesday, 8 to 8:45 a.m., at which Batcha will give an advance briefing on the survey and export report and answer questions

The U.S. organic industry is booming, with demand growing by double digits annually. More than 80 percent of U.S. households now buy organic sometimes, and many of those households ALWAYS choose organic. But the industry continues to grapple with supply gaps as the robust organic demand growth outpaces the growth in domestic organic production. Consumers are still confused about the benefits of organic, and what distinguishes organic from all the other food labels and claims in the grocery aisles.

“The organic sector is at a critical juncture right now,” said Batcha. “In many respects, things have never been so good for folks in the organic industry and for those consumers enjoying organic products, but we are facing many challenges if we want to grow organic to meet future needs. Our conference will address these challenges head-on, and take this important discussion forward.”