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Exploring the Future of Food and Agriculture

national press foundation

National Press Foundation journalist training

July 24-27, 2016 
St. Louis, MO

This July, the Organic Trade Association will be in St. Louis to present a dynamic, hands-on session on organic to twenty top journalists from around the county.

The session helps kick off the National Press Foundation’s (NPF) second annual educational program for reporters on food and agriculture. This year’s program is entitled “Exploring the Future of Food and Agriculture.” NPF hosts these programs every year– some call them boot-camps because of their intensity – for journalists to educate them on complex issues. Journalists from around the country apply to participate, and 20 are chosen.                                                                            

OTA has put together a program that will give the reporters an up-close view of organic farming, insights into the organic market and why consumers are clamoring for more organic, and the latest findings on how organic contributes to soil health and water quality.

Inserted into NPF’s four-day discussion on food security, access, technology and feeding the world, we will tell how organic has a unique connection with the consumer, and how it strives to provide the healthiest, most environmentally friendly products to the public. We will tell how organic contributes to the environment and communities.

Included in the Organic Trade Association program will be:

  • A walking tour of a certified organic grains farm (led by the farmer) with over 200 acres of organic soybeans, corn, wheat, hay and a host of cover crops.
  • A mock inspection by the farm’s certifier to show reporters what’s involved in the rigorous organic certified inspection.
  • A presentation by OTA CEO and Executive Director Laura Batcha on the organic market, how demand for organic continues to break new records every year, how organic is consumer-driven, how the demand for more organic is impacting and changing the practices and offerings of the biggest food companies.
  • A panel discussion led by OTA’s Senior Crops and Livestock Specialist Nate Lewis with two noted agricultural researchers on the critical contributions of organic to soil health and to water quality.

Dr. Cynthia Cambardella, soil scientist at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and professor at Iowa State University, will discuss her research showing that organic farm practices can improve water quality in Midwestern tile-drained landscapes where non-point source contamination in the soils is a major concern.

Dr. Steven Mirsky, research ecologist at USDA’s Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory, will discuss his work on organic cover-cropping systems, and how cover crops not only maximize economic profitability, but enhance soil health and water quality, minimize energy demand, and increase environmental sustainability.


This year we’ll be telling the organic story to reporters from Washington DC, Texas, Florida, New York, Kansas, Georgia, New Mexico, Michigan and other areas. They work for news outlets like the St. Louis Post Dispatch, USA Today, the Dallas Morning News, CNN, Politico, Ag Week, Public Broadcasting.

The other sponsors of this year’s event are the American Farm Bureau Federation, The National Pork Board, FarmLink  … and Monsanto. We’ve gotten some sharp criticism for taking part in a program alongside Monsanto and other conventional agricultural groups. But how can we not? Organic has to be at the table to define itself and its important place in food and agriculture.   

Our participation does in no way mean we are “aligning” with Monsanto or any other group. It means we are making sure organic has a seat at the table and will be heard. 

We are making huge inroads in telling the organic story – and OTA is strategically focused on guaranteeing that organic is always represented in broader discussions of food and agriculture. To show up with our positive message, bust some myths, and importantly, not be defined by others. It is our mission, and it is our privilege.


Maggie McNeil
Director of Media Relations
(202) 403-8524