Media/News Archive

The Final Chapter of Dean Foods: Bankruptcy

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

Dean Foods, the largest domestic milk producer, announced on November 12 that it was filing for bankruptcy.

The company’s organic portfolio is anemic after packaging its former branded products division as WhiteWave Foods in 2013. In 2017, Organic Valley controversially partnered with Dean Foods on a joint bottling venture.

After Dean’s bankruptcy announcement, Organic Valley CEO Bob Kirchoff reassured its suppliers. Kirchoff noted the cooperative had been aware that Dean was struggling, and he stated the bankruptcy will have “no impact on the venture’s customers or vendors.” This sounds like good news for the family-scale dairies that belong to the Organic Valley co-op.

The news is less good for the remaining Dean Foods brand farmers.

“What is saddening is how often family-scale dairies are impacted by price gouging and consolidation from big companies,” said Marie Burcham, Cornucopia’s director of domestic policy. “The dairy crisis has forced many ethical farmers out of business, in part because of unfair competition from industrialized companies including Dean and others.”

Although some claim Dean’s demise is due to the rising popularity of plant-based beverages, others note that milk has been losing out to bottled water as well. There are many factors in their failure to thrive, but Cornucopia notes this bankruptcy comes after spinning off the most lucrative brands in Dean’s portfolio.

Dean reports that it is engaged in discussions to sell most of its assets to Dairy Farmers of America. This proposed merger rings on concerns about anti-trust issues and market monopolization Cornucopia raised in 2016 regarding the proposed merger of Groupe Danone and WhiteWave. Read Full Article »

Commercial Agriculture Research Finds Chemicals Are Better for the Environment?

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

Hardly surprising.

Source: Tobias Nordhausen, Flickr

You may have seen the study suggesting that organic agriculture actually creates more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional agriculture. The Cornucopia Institute has observed research on this topic often comes from an industrial agriculture viewpoint. For more on this issue, read “Big Ag’s Long Arms in Scientific Research.

We believe the research published in Nature Communications in October 2019 is based on this biased viewpoint. The researchers did not consider all of the factors involved in greenhouse gas emissions—nor do they claim to. The study has been sensationalized (or weaponized, depending on your background) in the press.

This article in Organic Insider, written by former New York Times food business reporter Stephanie Strom, sheds some light on the research claims. Organic remains the most environmentally friendly food production method with third-party verification.

Why Claims That Organic is Worse for the Environment Do Not Hold Up
Organic Insider
by Stephanie Strom

Dominating the headlines recently has been a study out of the UK which claims that organic farming is bad for the environment.

Not exactly.

In the report, which assesses the potential changes to net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions if England and Wales shifted to 100% organic food production, it clearly acknowledges that organic farming might contribute to a reduction in GHG emissions “through decreased use of farm inputs and increased soil carbon sequestration.”

Nonetheless, the authors contend that organic’s positive environmental impact “must be set against the need for increased production and associated land conversion elsewhere as a result of lower crop and livestock yields under organic methods.” Read Full Article »

Nutritional Benefits of Pasture-Raised Food

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) recently unveiled new materials that showcase the benefits of pasture-raised livestock and poultry, including how pasturing improves animal welfare and soil health. They also highlight studies that show pasturing produces meat, milk, and eggs with superior nutrition when compared with conventionally raised livestock.

The handouts on FACT’s website include information on beef cattle, dairy cows, laying hens, meat birds, pigs, sheep, and goats, and an overview that summarizes all of the animals.

Nutritional benefits of pasture-raised foodFood Animal Concerns Trust

FACT is committed to helping livestock and poultry farmers raise their animals outdoors on well-managed pasture due to the numerous benefits associated with pasture-based animal production. Animals living on pasture can move freely and engage in natural behaviors. They also experience lower stress, disease and lameness, as well as fewer reproductive problems. Pasture-based animal production can help to improve soil health and fertility, and mitigate climate change.

In addition, studies consistently show that pasture-raised animals produce nutritionally superior meat, milk and eggs. When compared to food from animals that were fed grain and raised in confinement, food from animals raised on pasture has better fat quality and increased levels of essential vitamins and nutrients. Read Full Article »

Origin of Livestock Rule Crawls Through Regulatory Mire

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

The crisis in organic dairy is ongoing, with many family scale organic farms barely staying afloat or already out of business.

Source: Taylor Bennett, Flickr

Ethical farmers believe this crisis is perpetuated by differing applications of the “origin of livestock” rules in the organic standards. And some certifiers do appear to allow their dairy clients to game the system.

Offending dairies sell their certified organic calves for top dollar and buy cheap conventional heifers that are transitioned to organic over one year. This practice gives dairies a financial leg up because it allows them to sell the organic milk produced, instead of feeding it to baby calves.

The long-awaited Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule would have clarified this issue in 2018, but that proposed rule was withdrawn by the Trump administration, apparently in favor of agribusiness interests. A final rule remains on the horizon, despite dire reports from authentic organic dairy farmers.

Dairy consumers can help by using Cornucopia’s Organic Dairy Scorecard to support ethical family farmers.

Interested readers who want to learn more about the origin of livestock issue can also check out Cornucopia’s comprehensive report: The Industrialization of Organic Dairy.

Small Organic Dairy Farmers Say the Rules are Stacked Against Them. One Rule in Particular.
The Origin of Livestock rule is being applied in different ways by different certifiers, which producers and advocates say gives an unfair advantage to large dairies.
Civil Eats
by Lisa Held

Organic dairy farmers are often isolated and don’t get to connect to each other, said Liz Pickard, a farmer at Twin Oaks Dairy in Truxton, New York. But right now, when they do, the National Organic Program’s (NOP) “Origin of Livestock” rule is a hot topic.

“Everyone’s talking about it. It’s a huge deal,” she said on a recent phone call from her farm, as she cursed a stalled tractor. “This is probably one of the biggest things that’s putting a drag on the milk market right now.” Read Full Article »

South American Grain Fraud Allegations Draw Industry Scrutiny

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

Cornucopia has long called on the USDA to stop fraudulent organic grain imports from crossing U.S. borders.

Cases of fraudulent organic grain imports originating from Eastern Europe are well documented, as is the USDA’s failure to expeditiously investigate and impose penalties on bad actors intent on defrauding American farmers and consumers.

Source: Chesapeake Bay Program, Flickr

Now the article below discloses that South America may also be an origin of concern.

According to a complaint submitted to the USDA, Rivara SA, an Argentinian company, exported millions of pounds of fake organic corn and soybeans to the U.S.

The complaint relies on recorded conversations of a Rivara employee who allegedly admitted that Rivara was engaged in import fraud.

Perdue Agribusiness, a subsidiary of Perdue Farms, is Rivara’s largest customer.  Because Perdue Farms is the largest organic chicken producer in the U.S., the allegations raise serious concerns about the integrity of much of the U.S.’s organic chicken supply.

The article also notes that Tiryaki, the largest supplier of organic grain into the U.S., is transitioning to a new certifier after its former certifier, Control Union, was suspended by the USDA.

Cornucopia previously reported that USDA’s suspension followed the European Union’s action against Control Union for poor performance that facilitated organic fraud.

Cornucopia was the first to publicly call attention to the Tiryaki supply chain and will continue to monitor suspicious imports wherever they originate.

Organic-grain complaint raises questions about major Argentine supplier
Company in Argentina is scrutinized over its practices
by Adam Belz
Associated Press

For years, American farmers’ battle against fake organic-grain imports has centered on Eastern Europe. Now, an organic farm in South America is being scrutinized.

A lengthy complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and obtained by the Star Tribune, alleges fraud at an organic-grain company in Argentina that exports millions of bushels of organic corn and soybeans to the United States each year.

The complaint said that Rivara SA deliberately used prohibited fertilizers and herbicides to produce grain that it then passed off as organic to U.S. customers, including the largest U.S. producer of organic chickens. Read Full Article »