USDA Secretary Perdue
Source: USDA, Flickr

USDA Secretary Perdue made comments at the World Dairy Expo this week that have inflamed family-scale dairy producers across the country:

Small dairies and other family-scale farms support rural areas with food and local investment. They are a critical part of the fabric of the rural United States.

Many small dairy farmers transitioned to organic production in order to survive the economies of scale that have overtaken conventional dairy markets. Organic producers and consumers have asked for stricter regulation for both environmental and human health, setting organic agriculture apart from conventional.

Instead of giving support to the organic market, Perdue seems determined to subvert it on behalf of industrial organic interests.

In 2017, Secretary Perdue ignored the recommendations of the USDA’s own advisory panel, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), regarding their decision to prohibit the use conventional inulin-oligofructose enriched (IOF), whey protein concentrate, and Turkish bay leaves from use in organic production. After pressure from organic and agribusiness lobbyists, all three were re-listed as allowed in the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.

In January 2018, the administration pulled back the proposed Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule, despite massive public comment in favor of implementation. It would have improved animal welfare standards for poultry and other livestock.

Later in 2018, Perdue ignored the NOSB recommendation to remove the inflammatory additive, carrageenan, from the National List. Despite eight years of research, testimony, and 47,000 public signatures asking for this intestinal irritant to be removed from organic processing, Perdue again appeared to acquiesce to powerful agribusiness lobbyists.

A 2018 interview by Organic Insider’s Max Goldberg betrays Secretary Perdue’s lack of commitment to, and perhaps knowledge of, the foundation of organic agriculture. Perdue displayed a bias for quantity over quality in that video that is echoed in his recent statements in Madison, Wisconsin.

He claimed the overproduction of organic milk is due to “its popularity and price differentials,” but failed to mention the impacts of massive “organic” factory dairies abusing loopholes in the organic regulations that the USDA has refused to close.

When one farmer asked how he could benefit from the exemptions granted to mega-dairies, Perdue trotted out a line that Cornucopia has heard repeatedly:

“If you would point out to us the specific examples of those you feel like are not doing that, we will investigate that.”

Individuals and organizations that have brought evidence of fraud and abuse to the attention of the USDA have often found enforcement to be lackluster when it comes at all.

Cornucopia will continue to file formal complaints with the USDA regarding “organic” factory farms and bring attention to the bad actors. At the same time, we will continue to keep the public apprised of which farms and brands offer authentic organic food.

Perhaps doffing his hat to the name of his upcoming podcast, Perdue “Sonnysided” the future of dairy, saying, “There’s no doubt there’s been economic stress in the dairy industry but we believe that better days are ahead.”

Just not for family-scale farmers, if Perdue’s track record is any gauge.

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