Complaint concerning violation of the NOP pasture rule by the Aurora Organic

January 10, 2005

TO: Eileen Broomell, Office of Compliance, National Organic Program

Dairy Farm in Colorado

Dear Ms. Broomell,

The Cornucopia Institute is filing this complaint with your office concerning the apparent violation of the pasture rules for ruminants by the Aurora Organic Dairy Farm located near Platteville, Colorado. We are asking that you investigate this complaint and undertake all warranted enforcement actions to bring this dairy into compliance with NOP pasture rules in a timely fashion.

Specifically, we believe that the Aurora Organic Dairy Farm is violating the spirit and intent of portions of the following Subpart C provisions of the NOP regulations:

§ 205.237 Livestock feed.

(a) The producer of an organic livestock operation must provide livestock with a total feed ration composed of agricultural products, including pasture and forage, that are organically produced and, if applicable, organically handled … (emphasis added)

§ 205.238 Livestock health care practice standard

(3) Establishment of appropriate housing, pasture conditions, and sanitation practices to minimize the occurrence and spread of diseases and parasites; (emphasis added),

(4) Provision of conditions which allow for exercise, freedom of movement, and reduction of stress appropriate to the species;

§ 205.239 Livestock living conditions.

(a) The producer of an organic livestock operation must establish and maintain livestock living conditions which accommodate the health and natural behavior of animals, including (emphasis added):

(1) Access to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, and direct sunlight suitable to the species, its stage of production, the climate, and the environment;

(2) Access to pasture for ruminants;

The Cornucopia Institute contends that the Aurora Organic Dairy Farm’s allotment of a reported 135- to 250-acre dry exercise lot with no appreciative feed value for 5600 cows does not provide sufficient acreage for fulfilling the pasture feed component and the requirement for access to the outdoors for sunlight, exercise, the promotion of animal health and the reduction of stress. Additional support for this complaint is provided in the Chicago Tribune’s January 10, 2005, story, “Organic Milk Debate: Dairies Dispute ‘Organic’ Value.”

We understand that certified organic dairy operations can remove cows from pasture for “temporary” considerations based on weather, environmental, or health considerations as noted in the following portion of Subpart C:

§ 205.239 Livestock living conditions

(b) The producer of an organic livestock operation may provide temporary confinement for an animal because of:

(1) Inclement weather;

(2) The animal’s stage of production;

(3) Conditions under which the health, safety, or well being of the animal could be jeopardized; or

(4) Risk to soil or water quality.

The Cornucopia Institute contends, however, that climatic conditions—such as an arid climate, which makes pasture impractical or not cost—effective—cannot be used to justify year-round noncompliance with the pasture rule.

Furthermore, principals of the large dairies have alluded to the fact that they are taking advantage of the “stage of production” provision—as noted above—in the rules by pasturing dry cows and young stock but not lactating cows. It is our view that this is a gross distortion of the regulations, which never intended to eliminate pasture as a key feed component during the vast majority of a cow’s productive life.

The Aurora Organic Dairy Farm has been certified by the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Division of Plant Industry (phone: 303-239-4149).

The Aurora Organic Dairy Farm’s contact information from their most recent certification form is:

Dr. Juan Velez
7388 State Highway 66
Platteville, CO 80651

970-535-4626
970-535-4589—Fax

[email protected]

Certification Issued: 12/05/03

The Cornucopia Institute also believes that similar violations of the Subpart C pasture provisions are occurring on certified dairy operations in Idaho and California. We are investigating and collecting additional information on these farms and intend to file formal complaints regarding their violations with your office in the near future.

Please keep The Cornucopia Institute apprised of the status of and progress of your investigation of this formal complaint. We take this matter very seriously. Farmers who have made the difficult conversion to organics and consumers who are paying premium prices for organic foods rely upon the USDA and its approved certifying agents to uniformly and fairly enforce the nation’s organic law.

Lastly, pursuant to Subpart C and the following provision:

§ 205.680 General.

(a) Persons subject to the Act who believe they are adversely affected by a noncompliance decision of the National Organic Program’s Program Manager may appeal such decision to the Administrator.

It should be noted that nothing in this formal complaint shall be interpreted as a waiver of our right to appeal under the Adverse Action Appeals Process cited above.

You may contact us at your convenience.

Sincerely,

Will Fantle

Director of Research

715-839-7731