Cornucopia has conducted flyover investigations of numerous “organic” dairies over the years, including Boehning Dairy and Hilltop Dairy. Brian Boehning is the president of these two contiguous operations which use the same mailing address in Earth, Texas. Boehning is also the president of the more well-known County Line Dairy a few miles away (location secured through the EPA database).
Earth is in the Texas Panhandle, an arid region of the country known for its desert-like conditions and irrigated crop circles. It is difficult to imagine that legitimate certified organic dairies could exist in this environment, where some pastures are planted with annual grasses that burn out in the extreme heat. Still, the Texas Department of Agriculture, backed by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP), has deemed the practices “organic.”
The images and formal complaint we submitted to the NOP regarding Boehning and Hilltop Dairies were officially ignored, although it should be noted that the NOP had taken secret enforcement actions against this operator (Cornucopia has had to sue the USDA to force the release of documents related to the incident and the litigation continues).
We think consumers, and legitimate organic farmers, can see the trouble with this setup themselves:
The dairies’ pastures appeared generally worn-out in the images we took on May 17, 2014. Many of the fields lacked fencing and waterers and appeared to have been hayed, indicating these fields are not fully available to be grazed by cattle. According to filings with the state of Texas, this operation was managing 2,280 head of cattle on a mere 240 acres. Our most generous calculations suggest an effective stocking rate of 7.5 cows per acre. A 2005 Cornucopia organic dairy producer study indicated the nationwide average available pasture for real organic dairy cattle was approximately one cow per acre.
Further, not a single cow was seen on pasture at this operation when our aerial photography contractors took the image above.
This brings us back to County Line Dairy, operated by Brian Boehning. County Line Dairy’s brand developer noted in 2015 that County Line milks “2,000 cows on 3,000 acres.” However, depending on the layout of the dairies, cattle cannot walk far enough to utilize 3,000 acres.
Boehning also stated, “The cows that produce County Line Farms’ milk are happy, healthy and humanely cared for, and graze naturally over many acres, enjoying the fresh, clean, West Texas air.”
You can see the cows in their “humane” feedlot if you zoom in on the Google image here. This is County Line Dairy:
Cornucopia has rated County Line Dairy zero cows.
Their cheap milk is helping to push legitimate organic dairy farmers off their land. You can use our Organic Dairy Scorecard to find the highest quality milk, and support the most ethical producers, in your co-ops and grocery stores.