Cornucopia News Archive

County Line Farms in Texas has the Gall to Market Itself as “Organic Milk for the Soul”

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

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:

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Live (virtual) Cornucopia Press Conference: The Organic Dairy Industry Disaster

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018

Family Farmers Forced out of Business /Consumers Being Defrauded

Family farmers, with cows who have names not numbers, are being squeezed out of business by giant factory “organic” farms, some managing over 20,000 head of cattle.

Consumers know that milk created from cows on pasture have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and other valuable nutrients.

The USDA knows that pretending to graze thousands of cows housed in feedlots, on adjacent pasture with as many as 10 animals per acre, and milking them three or four times a day (one cow per acre, milking twice a day is the industry norm) is a farce.

Government regulators have ignored substantial evidence from The Cornucopia Institute and The Washington Post and allowed these mega-farms to operate. Now consumers have the opportunity to “take the law into their own hands” with a report and mobile-friendly scorecard rating 160 organic brands on their authenticity and adherence to organic values.

Tune in Wednesday at 11:30 Central/12:30 Eastern for a virtual press conference with Cornucopia Codirector Mark Kastel who also acts as the organization’s senior farm policy analyst. Read Full Article »

USDA-Backed “Factory Farm” Takeover of Organic Milk Production Crushing Family-Scale Farmers and Forcing Them Out of Business

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

Newly Released Report, and Associated Organic Dairy Brand Scorecard, Enables Defrauded Consumers and Wholesale Buyers to “Vote with Their Pocketbooks”

When commercialized in the 1980s, the organic dairy movement was viewed by many farmers as opting out of a rapacious agricultural marketing system that had already driven the majority of dairy farm families off the land over the preceding two decades. Now, a quarter century later, history is repeating itself with giant “factory farms” flooding the organic dairy market with fraudulent “organic” milk and economically devastating family businesses and rural communities.

According to the latest USDA records, organic milk production jumped 18.5% in 2016 alone, far eclipsing the growth in market demand. As a result, wholesale purchasers of raw organic milk have cut prices to farmers by 25-30% or more. In addition, some buyers have set quotas, mandating production cuts, further impacting cash flow. The largest organic dairy name brand, Horizon, owned by Groupe Danone of France, is terminating contracts with some farmers, at a time when there are no alternative markets available. Industry experts have called the moves by the world’s largest dairy a “death warrant” for farmers.

With the glut of organic milk, and the USDA abdicating their legally-mandated oversight responsibilities, authentic organic farmers and their customers are poised to band together to take their fight to the dairy coolers of the nation’s groceries and specialty retailers.

The Cornucopia Institute, a prominent organic industry watchdog, has just released a comprehensive history and study of the industry, exposing how factory farms, some milking as many as 15,000 cows in desert-like conditions in the Southwest, are defrauding consumers by depriving them of the documented nutritional superiority in pasture-based organic dairy production.

The report includes a companion Organic Dairy Scorecard rating approximately 160 brands in terms of their authenticity and quality of production. Read Full Article »

Organic Industry Watchdog Response to USDA on Import Fraud

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

[Read the USDA’s Office of Inspector General review of the NOP’s oversight of imports.]

The USDA’s National Organic Program, under increasing criticism regarding wholesale fraud in organics under their watch, today conducted a “virtual town hall” to present proposed rulemaking to address the improprieties.

Port of Oakland
Image source: Travis Leech

For most of the past decade, since The Cornucopia Institute rang the alarm bell over apparent fraud in the importation of organic commodities, the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP), and the industry’s powerful lobby group, the Organic Trade Association (OTA), had nothing but praise for the federal oversight of exponentially increasing imports.

Their wake-up call, in 2017, was a scathing investigative story published by The Washington Post documenting large-scale fraud in the importation of feed grains from former Soviet Bloc countries with documented records of other forms of international crime. Last year the USDA’s Office of Inspector General also released a highly critical review of the NOP’s oversight of imports.

Now, over a year later, the USDA is proposing taking some constructive steps. Their timetable for publishing a new rule is spring 2019. After public comment is received and considered it could be another six months or year before implementation (without any phase-in period).

However, The Cornucopia Institute is strongly advocating for “emergency” rulemaking enabling enhanced enforcement measures to go into effect on an immediate basis.

Furthermore, Cornucopia is pressuring the USDA to follow the intent of the enabling legislation that gave the agency the mandate to regulate the industry, the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). That law mandates that the Secretary of Agriculture consult with the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a 15-member expert advisory panel set up by Congress, before promulgating new regulations. The NOSB would then, thoughtfully, collaborate with stakeholders in the organic industry to create permanent rules while the emergency measures are already in place. The NOSB has discussed this topic but has not been allowed to formulate specific recommendations on new regulations.

Emergency rulemaking would temporarily bypass some of the legal noticing requirements, and public input, that might otherwise delay implementation for one to two years. This would give the NOSB, in collaboration with the industry, time to act.

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Why Don’t We Do More Fundraising As a Public Charity?

Friday, July 13th, 2018

“Your research, reports and resources continue to impress me. You are relentless in pushing for organic integrity. With 31 years of organic vegetable farming behind me, I know integrity when I see it. So I am bumping up my annual financial support to show my true appreciation.

You guys are just freakin’ awesome!”

– Seven-year sustaining Cornucopia member, Jim Eldon, Brooks, California (pictured with his wife Julie)

Dear Friend,

I always tell our staff, as a public-interest charity, our policy and communications work is the very best fundraising work we do. We don’t ask for contributions very often. Certainly at the end of the year and when your membership is due (and once in a while for an authentic/critical project).

Eldon Farm

When we send out a news release, action alert, or newsletter (electronic or in print), unlike many other groups, there’s no standard “ask” for donations. However, it really helps our morale that, even without asking, we get a handful every time. I can’t thank our loyal members enough for your ongoing confidence in our work.

When Jim chimed in after we emailed our last biweekly e-Newsletter with the laudatory comments above, they were worth a million dollars to me. So I thanked Jim and asked for permission to share them with the folks who receive our electronic newsletter.

Now I’m asking: If you are not already a member of The Cornucopia Institute, I respectfully ask you to please join and financially support the work of our staff protecting the authenticity of our food supply and farmers like Jim Eldon.

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