BRATTLEBORO - Former Windham County resident Laura Batcha has been named the new CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association, a national organization that promotes the organic industry.

The group works with farmers, the public and lawmakers to expand the offerings of organic goods in the food, textile, personal care and other expanding sectors.

She becomes the fourth director of the 29-year-old membership-based trade association for the organic industry in North America, which has offices in Brattleboro and in Washington D.C.

Batcha has family in Vermont and she started her company, Green Mountain Herbs, in 1991, growing organic medicinal plants in Westminster West and Saxtons River.

The company would eventually grow to become one of the largest certified organic producers of medicinal herbs and tinctures on the East Coast.

Over 60 percent of OTA trade members are small businesses and Batcha said her experiences in starting a company will influence her work while she tackles local, national and international organic issues.

"I can relate to entrepreneurial business people who are excited to work for a company that is trying to do well and bring something to the market they believe is better for the environment and for people," Batcha said. "In this job I get to work with so many great companies. I think having been a small business owner it gives me good range of views."

Batcha sold the company to Tom's of Maine in 1998 and she worked at that company for 10 years

She has been with OTA for six years and most recently served as OTA's executive vice president and interim co-executive director.

"I am certain that with Laura's executive leadership at OTA, we are well positioned for success in the coming years," said Melody Meyer, president of OTA's Board of Directors. "OTA has achieved many major milestones during the past few years, including establishing a Farmers Advisory Council (FAC), creating a bi-partisan Political Action Committee, and bringing The Organic Center under the OTA umbrella. OTA also has begun the critical conversation of exploring the potential for an Organic Research and Promotion Program."

Vermont has the second highest number of certified organic producers and handlers in the country and Batcha said the state is looked up to as a leader in the organic movement.

Its Congressional delegation members, she said, are leaders on national and international organic issues.

"People definitely look to Vermont. Vermont is the center of the local food movement, and is helping lead the way with GMO labeling," Batcha said. "On many issues Vermont is a model for the rest of country."

Batcha now lives in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Batcha currently serves as the Chair of OTA's Political Action Committee.

She has been appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture and has served as a representative of the organic industry on two separate Federal Advisory Committees that advise on issues related to the co-existence of biotechnology and organic and identity-preserved agriculture and on international trade.

As CEO and executive director, she also will serve on the Board of Trustees for The Organic Center, an independent non-profit research and education organization operating under the administrative auspices of the Organic Trade Association.

The Organic Trade Association, formerly the Organic Foods Production Association of North America started in 1985, and has been active in advancing and expanding national standards, supporting the transition to organic farming and promoting organic goods throughout the market place.

The OTA also supports scientific research regarding organic production and processing and educates the public about ongoing changes in the organic industry.

The organic industry is projected to grow by 15 percent in 2014, and Batcha says the group will work this year to establish more international trade agreements on organic standards between countries, as well as expanding education campaigns in this country to promote the industry.

"There is always more work to do," she said. "These international issues affect Vermont and organic growers and handlers all over the country.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.