Cornucopia News Archive

Alleged Animal Abuse at Known “Factory Organic” Dairy Under Watch of Texas Department of Agriculture

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

Cornucopia files formal legal complaint, encourages consumers to rebuke the false marketing of factory organic brands

[Read Cornucopia’s formal legal complaint to the USDA.]

Natural Prairie Dairy operation
Image from Cornucopia’s
2014 Flyover Investigation

Natural Prairie Dairy, one of the first “organic” dairies to employ industrial stocking practices, recently made headlines again. The Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) released a video in July showing severe abuse of dairy cattle at an operation housing approximately 14,000 cows, certified USDA organic by the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA).

The undercover video, along with ARM’s full report on their month-long investigation, shows cows being kicked, hit with shovels, stabbed with screwdrivers, force-fed, and inhumanely tied for many hours. Many cattle were observed with injuries, foot diseases, infected udders, and lameness. Downer cattle, unable to stand on their own, were beaten, dragged, left to die, and observed falling into cesspools, where they almost drowned before being dragged out by their heads.

“The abuse caught by the undercover investigator is appalling, whether it comes from an organic or conventional dairy,” commented Marie Burcham, JD, The Cornucopia Institute’s director of domestic policy. “Cornucopia reported to the USDA in 2010 that this certified organic dairy was violating organic regulations. Almost a decade later, Natural Prairie Dairy has not been decertified. We want proof that the USDA is willing to enforce the law.”

That proof remains elusive. Almost a month after ARM reported on the “squalid, overcrowded, and unsanitary conditions” at Natural Prairie Dairy, the operation remains listed as certified in the USDA’s Organic Integrity Database, and TDA remains an accredited certifier. Cornucopia has filed a formal legal complaint against the operation and its certifier.

TDA certifies some of the most egregious factory farms and has had multiple, serious non-compliances in years past. According to Freedom of Information Act disclosures, they failed to conduct annual inspections on approximately 22% of their clients in one year, had insufficient personnel to comply with and implement the organic certification program, and failed to conduct unannounced inspections. Read Full Article »

The Crisis in Organic Dairy

Sunday, August 18th, 2019

Consumers Unite!

[This article was previously published in the summer issue of  The Cultivator, Cornucopia’s quarterly newsletter.]

by Marie Burcham, JD, Director of Domestic Policy at The Cornucopia Institute and Melody Morrell, Operations Director

Source: AdobeStock

Family-scale organic dairies are struggling to make ends meet. Many have already lost their farms and businesses, some of which have been in the family for generations.

At their biannual meeting in April, the National Organic Standard Board (NOSB) heard from multiple family-scale dairy farmers about how their businesses are failing due to the inconsistent application of organic principles during certification.

For example, a small number of very large “organic” dairies are disregarding the origin of livestock rules by continuously cycling conventional livestock into production. Industrial organic operations, whose cows spend most of their lives in the feedlot, also struggle to meet even the most modest pasture requirements.

Authentic organic dairy farmers easily exceed the pasture requirements for organic livestock: 30% dry matter intake (DMI) and a minimum 120-day grazing season for each individual animal.

What’s more, the grain being fed in industrial operations may not actually be organic. In 2018, Cornucopia Director of International Policy Anne Ross, JD, exposed a network of fraudulent grain importers from overseas.

Available data shows the U.S. is importing more than they can possibly grow. This grain is cheap and abundant compared to real organic grain, making it an attractive choice for livestock factories.

Several dairy farmers shared emotional stories at the spring NOSB meeting in Seattle—about their families losing their homes, about financial ruin, about watching other dairies break or bend the organic rules without consequence, while their own ethical practices put them further and further into debt. Read Full Article »

Cornucopia is Seeking an Executive Director

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

The Cornucopia Institute is is seeking candidates for its Executive Director position.

Cornucopia acts as an organic industry watchdog protecting organics and alternative marketing mechanisms allowing farmers and consumers to connect. We seek to defend the integrity of the organic food label from governmental regulatory indifference as well as from agribusinesses profiteering from unethical and questionable food production and agricultural practices. Our staff are committed to ensuring that organic and local food remain true to the human and environmental health promises that they were founded on.

A heartfelt passion for protecting the environment, the good food movement, human health, humane livestock husbandry, and social/economic justice for family farmers is essential for this position.

The full job descriptions and details for application are available at https://www.cornucopia.org/job-opportunities/.
Please do not send email or call.

Read Full Article »

GMO-Friendly USDA Ogling Organic

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

Under Secretary’s Testimony Opens Discussion to “Enhance Organic Production”

USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach recently made comments before the House Agriculture Subcommittee suggesting it is time to discuss the possible allowance of gene editing methods within organic production.

USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach
Source: USDA, Flickr

Ibach’s words are in line with the Trump administration’s stance. Organic standards currently prohibit the use of genetic engineering (GE) and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but USDA Secretary Perdue has been very friendly toward biotechnology companies and products.

President Trump’s June executive order to streamline approval for new GMO crops was immediately followed by a USDA proposed rule that would allow biotechnology companies to regulate their own GE creations. Ibach’s testimony is not surprising in this environment.

“The allowance of any GE techniques under the organic label raises legitimate ‘slippery slope’ concerns. The USDA would be hard-pressed to find the resources to track allowed GE technologies and products in the organic sector, assuming they could summon the will,” observes Cornucopia’s director of domestic policy Marie Burcham, JD.

We have already seen the playbooks of biotechnology companies. Because GMOs are an expensive investment, both in terms of time and money, only the largest biotechnology companies are positioned to research, develop, and test new crops. They benefit enormously as regulatory hurdles are removed.

The majority of genetically engineered crops currently on the market have been modified to withstand synthetic pesticides, repel pest species, and extend crop shelf-lives to benefit processors and retailers.

Biotechnology companies hold patents on their seeds, which ensure they retain all rights to the engineered traits. As a result, four seed companies now own more than 60% of the global proprietary seed sales. Read Full Article »

Add-On Label Identifies Real Organic Food

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

The USDA’s National Organic Program has failed consumers and true organic farmers by refusing to enforce pasture requirements for organic livestock and by allowing hydroponic produce to bear the organic label. As such, add-on labels are emerging to help consumers differentiate between industrial and authentic organic. Cornucopia supports the efforts of the Real Organic Project to verify ethical farming practices.

The Real Organic Project (ROP) is a grassroots, farmer-led movement created to distinguish soil-grown and pasture-raised products. ROP has created an add-on label to assure consumers that what they are buying is authentic organic food from family farms.

In 2019, certified organic farms are eligible to apply for this add-on label, free of charge.

As a follow up to the 60 ROP-certified pilot farms across the country in 2018, ROP has begun their 2019 certification program.

Real certified organic farmers can be part of the pilot program! Apply online for free Real Organic Project certification–or call ROP Associate Director Linley Dixon at 970-317-0309 to apply by phone. Read Full Article »