UK Soil Association’s Organic Farming magazine, Autumn 2015
by Tim Harrap MPhil

Published by
Palgrave Macmillan

With the title U.S. Organic Dairy Politics you might think Bruce Scholten’s new book was too parochial to be of interest to non-US readers interested in organic dairy farming systems. Far from it, this book highlights the social, economic and political challenges we all face in a commercial world.

The book ranges over the background to agricultural revolutions with reference to Balfour, Steiner and Carson and sets the scene for the battles over the number of days on pasture for cows that constitutes an organic production model. With such a variety of climates in the US a one size fits all will always cause friction – EU no different?

Bruce Scholten spends some time teasing out the question of animal welfare, GMO’s and the use of antibiotics in organic herds. He highlights for instance, the conflicting approaches whereby use of antibiotics in the US permanently removes an animal from an organic herd and yet a more liberal interpretation is used when bringing cows in calf into the herd for herd replenishment.

References to Rudolf Steiner throughout this book draw attention to his (Steiner’s) biodynamic agricultural course.  Scholten commends Steiner for “extolling experiments over dogma” but in writing of the BSE crisis makes no mention of Steiner’s reference not to feed ruminants animal proteins. That said the influence of Steiner’s ideas introduced by Pfeifer to JI Rodale show how connected European and American ideas are and remain so.

As a political economist Scholten has laid the groundwork for further research into the contested arenas of organic dairy production systems as a manifestation of the underlying tensions in society between political, economic and social spheres. We can only hope a paperback version of this book can be produced for wider circulation.

Tim Harrap MPhil
Head of Collaboration Lye Cross Farm
Redhill, Somerset, England, UK

US Organic Dairy Politics – Animals, Pasture, People, and Agribusiness

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (19 Nov. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1137330600
  • ISBN-13: 978-1137330604

(Review courtesy of the UK Soil Association’s Organic Farming magazine, Autumn 2015)
Soil Association

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