Cornucopia News Archive

June/July Update: Materials added to the FOIA reading room

Monday, June 26th, 2017
Source: Heather

We have added new documents from the USDA to our FOIA reading room.

Of particular note, the USDA sent 89 pages in response to our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all records of deliberations surrounding the applications of Ashley Swaffer and Carmela Beck to the National Organic Standards Board. Swaffer and Beck are agribusiness executives who were appointed to seats that Congress specified, in the Organic Foods Production Act, should go to certified organic farmers.

We have also added FOIA documents pertaining to the National Organic Program’s enforcement activities regarding Redland Dairy, a large “organic” factory dairy that lost their certification. Read Full Article »


Thursday, June 8th, 2017

Walking Through the Fields of Change

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

by Rachel Zegerius
Communications and Development Associate at The Cornucopia Institute

Oren Holle

For Kansas grain producer Oren Holle, the intention to farm was early and lasting. “When I was in high school, only one thing was clear in my mind about my future,” says Holle. “I would be a farmer.”

A fifth-generation grower, Oren helped his father manage herds of dairy and beef cattle, grain crops, laying hens, and pastured hogs. Those days, agrarian traditions tended towards more sustainable and socially just local food systems.

Reflecting, Holle recalls how this diversified, ecologically based approach to farming began to change in the late 60s. The route trucks quit running in rural northern Kansas and milk processing started going the way of bulk tanks. Holle recounts his own decree; he intended to be married, but not to a herd of Holsteins. Read Full Article »

Organic, Rooted in Soil

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

Farming with Natural Complexity

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

by Linley Dixon, PhD, Farm and Food Policy Analyst
at The Cornucopia Institute

Source: Adobe Stock

Growing up, I told a skeptical family member that I wanted to be an organic farmer. He replied, “Why make life difficult for yourself by choosing a career that goes against convention?”

The long answer to his question would have included everything from the benefits of farm biodiversity, nutrient cycling, environmental stewardship, animal welfare, reduction of farmworker and consumer chemical exposure, production of healthier food, and, in short, a desire to leave a piece of land better than I found it! Instead, I simply replied, “Because it’s the right thing to do.”

Last November esteemed Vermont organic greenhouse grower Dave Chapman testified before the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) that, if profits were his sole motivation as an organic farmer, he would become a hydroponic grower.

Rather than putting so much effort into caring for the soil by building organic matter and fertility, he would see an immediate boost in yield and profits with a hydroponic container system. Read Full Article »

Azure Farms

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Update 5/18/17: Azure Organic Farms has had a successful meeting with Sherman County, Oregon, officials regarding the weeds issue. It appears there will be no chemical spraying on Azure Organic Farms. Azure’s FAQ on their website contains additional information:

We have removed the Azure Farms plea for help from our website based on the range of conflicting information surrounding their circumstances.

Azure Standard has since responded to our inquiry with offers of transparency. We appreciate the farm management’s willingness to seek clarification on the circulating issues. At this time we still encourage those concerned to seek first-hand information from the parties involved.

Interested parties should reach out to Azure Standard and Sherman County, Oregon offices for further clarification.
Read Full Article »

Washington Post Investigative Report Uncovers Massive Fraud in Organic Grain Imports

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

Updated May 15
[Read Cornucopia’s letter to USDA Secretary Perdue.]

Industry Watchdog Reinforces Call for New Leadership at USDA National Organic Program

Non-organic corn and soy, labeled as organic, are flooding U.S. ports, undercutting legitimate U.S. organic farmers, due to the USDA’s negligence. The organic industry’s most aggressive industry watchdog, The Cornucopia Institute, reinforced their call for USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to correct the chronic pattern of gross corruption at the National Organic Program (NOP) by replacing the incompetent management.

Imported organic corn being unloaded in the U.S.

Cornucopia’s letter to Perdue follows the release of a new investigation by The Washington Post documenting massive shipments of fraudulent organic grains entering the U.S. from China and Eastern Europe. The May 13 article, The labels said ‘organic.’ But these massive imports of corn and soybeans weren’t, details how easy it has been for exporters to sell gross amounts of fraudulent “organic” commodities to U.S. markets.

“This is the second organic major-league scandal uncovered this month by The Washington Post, and it confirms a longstanding pattern of negligence and corruption documented by our researchers,” said Will Fantle, Cornucopia’s codirector.

Cornucopia has filed numerous formal and well-documented legal complaints seeking to force the USDA to examine a wide range of alleged wrongdoings at organic factory farms and by other industry scofflaws.  All too often the complaints have been dismissed without investigation, or, when found meritorious, penalties have been negotiated down to a “light slap on the wrist” for offenders, with the details of the deals cloaked in secrecy, according to Cornucopia.

The organic sector is a robust and rapidly growing piece of the food pie, with annual sales now topping more than $40 billion.  “Clearly there is a hunger by many in America for food that is safer and more nutrient-dense,” Fantle noted.  “But consumers are being cheated and ethical farmers are being robbed of income while the USDA fails to vigorously defend—as they were charged to do by Congress—organic integrity.” Read Full Article »