Late last year we learned that the nation’s largest organic dairy processors (Organic Valley, Horizon, Stonyfield, Aurora and Humboldt) collaborated on drafting a secret letter to the USDA Secretary proposing their own “fix” to the controversy regarding factory-farms and whether their cattle are allowed to graze in compliance with the federal organic standards.

We’ve just obtained a copy of this letter and feel that dairy producers have a right to see and review it very carefully. Click on this link to read the letter.

It sounds good, its goals are laudable, but it depends on interpretation which is the weakness that some have criticized as the Achilles heel of the current standards.

Do you trust the corporations, that own and operate the massive factory-farms that have been gaming the system for years, to collaborate in good faith with certifiers such as Quality Assurance International? QAI is the corporate-friendly certifier that has been giving their blessing to the majority of all organic CAFOs. And do you trust the USDA to enforce another standard open to “interpretation” when it has looked the other way on this issue since they were given the responsibility by Congress to create a fair and level playing field?

Since the two largest factory-farm operators signed onto this letter, how much teeth do you think they believe it will have in real-world applications?

The Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, the Midwest Organic Dairy Producers Association, the Western Dairy Producers Alliance along with The Cornucopia Institute, the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture and many other consumer and farm organizations, and virtually every dairy farmer in the United States, has backed, in the addition to the flowery language that this letter contains, hard benchmarks to set extremely modest minimums (farmers will have to graze for the entire growing season, but not less than 120 days, and average at least 30% Dry Matter Intake [DMI] from pasture).

Dairy producers should consider contacting their milk handlers and demand that this letter be formally retracted. Farmers and consumers worked together for years, in public dialogue with the National Organic Standards Board, to come up with the consensus proposal (120 days/30%). The dairy processors should not be allowed, working with their powerful Washington lobbyists and lawyers, to have more say than the hard-working families who have built this industry through sweat and get their hands dirty.

The voice of the consumer and the organic farmers in this country needs to prevail in this matter.

Mark Kastel
Will Fantle

Codirectors – The Cornucopia Institute

PS: While you are on the Cornucopia site if you have not had the opportunity to view the photo galleries of the massive “organic” industrial dairies that have caused this brouhaha in the first place we invite you to take a look.

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