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.

Virtual Press Conference: Farmers Take Over Organic Certification

March 20th, 2019

Virtual press conference – farmers take over organic certification.

Posted by The Cornucopia Institute on Wednesday, March 20, 2019

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Cornucopia’s executive director Mark Kastel offered a short presentation and Q&A on The Cornucopia Institute’s newest report analyzing the performance of the nation’s approximately 45 domestic organic certifiers, The Gatekeepers of Organic Integrity. Read Full Article »

Who Certifies Livestock Factories and Hydroponic Operations and What Does It Pay?

March 20th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: Cornucopia has heard from organic farmers and businesses who have asked their certifiers for a moratorium on hydroponics and to identify fraudulent dairies and egg operations. Cornucopia’s infographic, A Perfect Picture of Corruption, shows an example of the some of these conflicts of interest.

The organic food industry is booming, and that may be bad for consumers
The Washington Post
by Laura Reiley

As organic food shifts from utopian movement to lucrative industry, a war is being waged for its soul.

Record organic sales in the United States totaled nearly $50 billion in 2017 according to the Organic Trade Association. Although organic food still represents only 5.5 percent of food sold, its year-over-year growth has been meteoric — taking a cue from conventional agriculture’s mantra: “Get big or get out.”

This has resulted in organic growers and food companies that, although technically adhering to the definition of organic — no chemically formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics or pesticides — are a far cry from the idealism and high standards with which the movement began.

Now the Cornucopia Institute, a farm policy research group best known as an organic industry watchdog, is trying to promote higher standards among the accredited certifying agents hired by organic farmers, processors and handlers to ensure that their practices comply with regulations established when Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. Organic farmers’ original intent was to create a level playing field in the market and to provide consumers assurance about a minimum uniform standard for organic production.

In a scorecard set to be released this week, the Cornucopia Institute ranked all 45 domestic certifiers on their adherence to the spirit and letter of the organic law. The institute found significant variation in how certifiers interpret regulations, variation that frequently benefits huge corporate farms and competitively disadvantages those comporting themselves ethically. Read Full Article »

New Report Puts Farmers Back in Charge of Organic Certification

March 14th, 2019

USDA Has “Willfully Failed” on Congressional Mandate to Prevent Fraud

When farmers lobbied Congress to pass the Organic Foods Production Act in 1990, their intention was to create a level playing field in the market and to affirm the credibility of organic labeling in the eyes of consumers. Unfortunately, according to a newly released report by The Cornucopia Institute, the USDA’s poor oversight of federally accredited third-party certifiers has paved the way for illegal output from “factory farms” that now dominate the $50 billion organic market basket.

A Perfect Picture of Corruption
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Prior to 2002 when federal regulations kicked in, a hodgepodge of state laws and dozens of independently owned certifiers created their own organic standards. Although Congress intended the enforcement of uniform national regulations, a handful of the largest certifiers have allowed livestock factories producing dubious milk and eggs and hydroponic, soil-less indoor farming to illegally squeeze out legitimate family scale organic farmers and ranchers.

In addition to Cornucopia’s investigative analysis, the nonprofit farm policy research group also released a guide rating all 45 domestic certifiers on their adherence to the “spirit and letter of the organic law” as gauged by the most prominent allegations of malfeasance currently facing the organic industry.

“This might be the most provocative project we have worked on during our 15-year history,” said Mark A. Kastel, a Cornucopia founder and its current Executive Director. “Make no mistake about it, farmers will be empowered to disrupt the revenue streams of some of the largest and most powerful certifiers in the organic industry by switching to truly ethical alternatives.”

Cornucopia alleges that many of the certifiers established by farmers, some in existence since the 1970s and 80s, have morphed from nonprofits dedicated to helping promote environmental animal husbandry and the economic justice benefits of organic farming into multimillion-dollar corporations more interested in pursuing multibillion-dollar corporate agribusinesses. Read Full Article »

Proxy Letter from Certified Organic Farmers to Certifiers

March 13th, 2019

If you are a certified organic farmer or business owner, please consider printing and filling out the proxy below. If you return it to Cornucopia, we will send it on to your certifier along with proxies from other farmers who share your certifer.

Click here to download the proxy.

One Organic Dairy Diversifies to Remain Afloat

March 12th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: Creativity and diversification may help some organic dairy farmers keep their doors open. The farm in the story below has been able to take advantage of its proximity to major cities. While urban sprawl has meant the death of many farm operations, it seems to be saving this one.

Pinke: A grass-fed organic dairy farm stays viable just outside the Twin Cities
by Katie Pinke
Twenty minutes south of Minneapolis-St. Paul, tucked into what is now the sprawling suburbs, is a family farm, Zweber Farms of Elko, Minn.

“The farm has been here since 1906 but actually the Zwebers have been farming in this area for over eight generations. We are currently grass-fed, organic. Today we have not only our dairy farm, which is about 60 percent of our operation. But we also have a grass-fed beef operation. We have a natural pork operation. We also do pasture chickens and free-range laying hens,” Emily Zweber said to me when I recently visited with AgweekTV colleague Trevor Peterson.

You may have never thought of how a family farm stays viable in the midst of urban sprawl.

Emily shared, “For us it’s really been about how do we stay and farm in the area that we’re in, being so surrounded by the urban development? For example, because of where we are, we’re not zoned agriculture anymore. And so that puts a lot of limits on how we can expand our operation or change our operation. For example, buildings. And so we’re not allowed to put on big agriculture structures to grow our operation. So we really have to think outside the box.” Read Full Article »

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