The Cornucopia Institute

The Cornucopia Institute, through research and investigations on agricultural and food issues, provides needed information to family farmers, consumers and other stakeholders in the good food movement and to the media. We support economic justice for the family-scale farming community – partnered with consumers – backing ecologically produced local, organic and authentic food.

Looking at Fraud: Industry Watchdog Releases Comprehensive Report Documenting Suspicious Organic Grain Imports

June 18th, 2018

[Read Cornucopia’s letter to Sec. Perdue and the white paper, The Turkish Infiltration of the U.S. Organic Grain Market]

Failures in USDA Oversight Rendered U.S. Markets Vulnerable to Fraud by Eastern European Cartels

Some Implicated Major Players Quietly Exit Market

An organic industry watchdog, The Cornucopia Institute, has released a groundbreaking, comprehensive report chronicling how a small number of multibillion dollar agribusinesses came to dominate the U.S. organic grain industry following the systemic failures of the USDA’s National Organic Program (USDA-NOP) to curb the infiltration of questionable organic grain imports.

25,000 metric tons of “organic” corn,
sold by Tiryaki and shipped on the M/V Mountpark,
were rejected at a California port in April 2018.
Image courtesy of VesselFinder/Cengiz Tokgöz

During the latter part of Cornucopia’s two-year investigation, it appears that the two largest players in importing feed grains into the U.S., Turkey-based Tiryaki Agro Gida Sanayi Ve Ticaret A.S (“Tiryaki”) and its wholly owned organic division, Diasub, FZE, have quietly “surrendered” their organic certification, reducing their exposure (it should be noted that many of their corporate affiliates remain in good standing with the USDA).

Cornucopia’s report finds that the U.S. became a dumping ground for imports of fraudulent organic corn, soybeans, and other commodities after the European Union cracked down on abuses originating in former Soviet Bloc countries including Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Romania, and Russia.  What makes this particularly problematic is that imports now make up the majority of feed grains fed to domestic certified organic livestock.

“With industry experts estimating that over 50% of organic corn and 80-90% of soybeans are being imported, there is speculation that if the USDA, at this point, wakes up to do their job, feed shortages in the organic marketplace could occur,” said Mark A. Kastel, codirector of The Cornucopia Institute. Read Full Article »

Handsome Brook and Humane Farm Animal Care Settle

June 16th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: After two years of litigation, Handsome Brook, a marketer of certified organic and conventional eggs, and Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) have reached an out-of-court settlement, agreeing to pay their own court costs.

HFAC had sent emails to Handsome Brook’s retail outlets, claiming Handsome Brook’s certifications for organic and pasture-raised were not current. At the time of these allegations in 2016, Cornucopia had become aware that Handsome Brook had purchased several large orders of “organic” eggs from outside their network of contracted farmer-suppliers. Those eggs did meet the USDA organic standards. However, they did not conform with the company’s marketing representations in terms of their animal welfare practices (including being “pastured”) and were not certified by HFAC as was represented on the packaging.

After the first allegations became public in 2016, new owners took control of the management of Handsome Brook. They have been fully cooperative in our investigations of the company’s past conduct. We have found no evidence of current violations of law or misrepresentations taking place, and we have reinstated them as a four-egg operation on our scorecard. We will continue to closely monitor this brand.

Certified Humane label settles lawsuit with organic, pasture-raised egg brand
Sustainable Food News

HFAC’s Adele Douglass had emailed 36 grocery retailers urging supplier switch

Handsome Brook Farm LLC (HBF), one of the largest U.S. producers of certified-organic pasture-raised eggs, and Humane Farm Animal Care, Inc. (HFAC), which administers the Certified Humane Raised and Handled label, have reached a compromise settlement in a two-year lawsuit.

Franklin, N.Y.-based HBF had brought a false advertising claim under the Lanham Act against HFAC in May 2016 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Case #: 1:16-cv-00592).

HBF was certified by the American Humane Association (AHA) in March 2016, becoming the only egg provider certified by AHA that is 100 percent pasture raised. HBF is also certified organic by USDA-accredited certifier Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY). Read Full Article »

Industry Watchdog Asks DOJ Regulators to Examine Organic Poultry Acquisition

June 13th, 2018

Tyson Foods Announces Plans to Acquire Smart Chicken Brand

[Read Cornucopia’s letter to the DOJ and FTC.]

Last week, U.S. meat industry titan Tyson Foods, Inc. announced its plans to acquire Tecumseh Poultry, LCC for an undisclosed amount. The deal would take one of the leading organic poultry brands, Smart Chicken, and pair them with other organic brands the industrial giant already owns. Organic industry watchdog The Cornucopia Institute just released a formal request to antitrust regulators asking them to scrutinize the acquisition, claiming it will irreparably harm competition in the already highly concentrated industry sector.

Some of 41 Smart Chicken barns in Tecumseh, NE:
Gates open, grass mowed, all doors closed.
No signs of birds ever being out.

Tyson Foods is one of the world’s largest food companies. The corporation has approximately $38.3 billion in annual sales, producing over 68 million pounds of meat per week. Tyson representatives state that this acquisition will make them one of the nation’s leading producers of organic branded chicken. Tyson also produces organic chicken products under its NatureRaised Farms and Aidells brands. Smart Chicken will add significant market share to the organic poultry brands Tyson already holds.

In 2017 Cornucopia made a similar claim that France’s Groupe Danone’s acquisition of WhiteWave Foods would create an unhealthy market in the organic dairy industry. That deal would have combined the Horizon label (the country’s largest organic milk brand) with Stonyfield yogurt (the country’s largest organic yogurt brand). Regulators at the U.S. Department of Justice concurred, allowing the deal to go through only after Danone jettisoned Stonyfield.

The market for organic poultry grew in sales volume by 8.6 percent from 2016 to 2017 (more than four times the rate of conventional poultry growth). According to USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), the number of certified organic broilers produced in 2016 totaled more than 19 million and the number of certified organic turkeys was 410 thousand. The impressive growth of the organic poultry market in recent years made this move attractive to Tyson, with its representatives noting that the Smart Chicken brand is a leader in the organic poultry market and would give them a greater slice of that market. Read Full Article »

Gut Health Improved by Local, Organic Eating

June 13th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: The importance of the human microbiome is poorly understood. Studies underway indicate ties to immune system and mental health and further indicate that the individual microbiota in the gut are encouraged or starved by the food we ingest.  Consumers can help promote the health of the microbiome with a diverse and organic diet. Evolutionary plant breeding offers an additional and local solution. Individual farmers adapt plants to their particular soil and climate to resist disease and pests and to nourish local communities.

Stuffed or Starved? Evolutionary Plant Breeding Might Have the Answer
Independent Science News
by Salvatore Ceccarelli

Source: Laura Gilmore

Science has recently begun associating the decline of biodiversity with the increase of inflammatory diseases. These range from inflammatory bowel disease, to ulcerative colitis, to cardiovascular disorders, to various liver diseases and to many types of cancer (1). This increase in the frequency of inflammatory diseases has been associated with a decrease in our immune defences (1). Even more recently, the microbiome – namely the complex of bacteria, viruses, fungi, yeasts and protozoa that is in our intestine – sometimes called microbiota (2) – has been associated with our immune system and then with the possibility of contracting inflammatory diseases (3).

The microbiome, which weighs an average of two kilograms – consider that the human brain weighs an average of one and a half kilograms – plays a number of important functions, from the synthesis of vitamins and essential amino acids, to the breakdown of what has not been digested in the upper intestinal tract. Some of the products of these activities represent an important energy source for intestinal wall cells and contribute to intestinal immunity.

The diet strongly influences the microbiome, and a change in the diet changes its composition in just 24 hours; it takes 48 hours, after changing the diet again, before the microbiome returns to the initial conditions (4). Read Full Article »

Aurora Dairy: Destroying the Environment = THAT’S NOT ORGANIC!

June 12th, 2018

It’s bad enough that the only legal obligations corporations have are to their shareholders and investors. Many companies and brands talk a good game when it comes to “sustainability” practices, but, as this commentary illustrates, their very model is destructive.

In the case of Aurora, not only will they have semi-trailers worth of raw milk coming in from Texas and Colorado (where their corporate-owned mega-dairies are located), they will be shipping truckloads full of packaged milk, from Columbia, Missouri, to Portland, Oregon and Portland, Maine — undercutting the livelihoods of family-scale dairy farmers around the country and their regional processing/marketing partners who deliver to stores within a couple hundred miles rather than thousands.

Aurora’s entire model, in terms of environmental stewardship, is anything but “organic.” It is a gross betrayal to the values of the farmers, entrepreneurs, and consumers who have built the organic movement (which Aurora and its investors are all too happy to exploit).

– Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst

KEN MIDKIFF: Aurora Organic Dairy an example of unintended consequences
The Missourian
by Ken Midkiff

Source: Taber Andrew Bain

President Dwight Eisenhower was responsible for creating the Interstate Highway System. He did it to expedite troop movements. Recently, we traveled on Interstate 70 and Interstate 25 to and from Fort Collins, Colorado. We saw absolutely no military vehicles. Instead, there were many 18-wheel trucks and even more passenger cars and SUVs.

What President Eisenhower did was create a system that enables civilian travel and has little or nothing to do with troop movements. His unintended consequence in creating the Interstate Highway System for the military inadvertently benefited the military very little and benefited commercial and non-commercial travel considerably. Also unintended was the increase in global greenhouse gas emissions from all those cars and trucks.

Such is the case locally. The Regional Economic Development Inc. folks worked for months to bring a processing plant for Aurora Organic Dairy here, and there is little doubt that construction jobs were created and, when the plant is fully operational, other high-paying jobs (the company says 100) will exist. Read Full Article »

The Cornucopia Institute
P.O. Box 126 Cornucopia, Wisconsin 54827
Ph: 608-625-2000