February 28, 2005
Now that organic agriculture is a $15 billion industry and growing, it is squarely in the crosshairs of multinational corporations. Major food manufacturers are entering organic production, cutting corners, inflating prices, and endangering the integrity of organic agriculture (factory farms, nonorganic inputs, and imported ingredients with questionable certification).
Some large corporations, along with a complacent USDA, have become masters at creating loopholes for corporate organic farming, such as:
- Importing vegetables or feed grains from Third World countries without USDA site certification visits.
- Raising chickens without access to the outdoors.
- Including unapproved preservatives in products.
- Buying replacement dairy heifers shot-up with antibiotics and from nonorganic sources.
- Operating a factory farm with 70,000 chickens or 5000 cows.
“Organic” Factory Farms?
After years of inaction, the USDA’s National Organic Program has recently been forced to address a number of large, industrial dairy farms-without adequate pasture that are producing “organic” milk. These factory farms range in size from approximately 3,000 to 4,000 cows and are basically confinement feedlots without legitimate access to pasture for feed and exercise, as required by the federal organic regulations. Milk from most of these mega-farms is being distributed by Dean/Horizon, the largest milk bottler in the United States, and under a number of private-label brands that are available at natural food and conventional grocers.
These corporate farms and their wealthy investors are jeopardizing the livelihoods of organic family-scale dairy farmers throughout the United States, along with the more modest-sized companies and cooperatives that market their milk.
Recently, The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based advocacy group that supports family farmers, filed formal complaints against three of these farms operating in Idaho, California, and Colorado. This issue will come to a head at the semiannual meeting of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) in Washington, D.C., March 1-3.
Farmers and consumers will make their voice heard at this meeting. Many farmers in the Northeast, and others as far away as California, will be coming to testify in support of enacting strong rules requiring access to pasture for dairy cows, sheep, goats, and beef cattle. They will also call for enforcement of the requirement for access to the outdoors for other species such as poultry.
Make Your Voice Heard
1. Please share this action alert with your circle of friends and colleagues.
2. E-mail, fax, or mail a letter to the USDA. If you email all your comments to The Cornucopia Institute by February 28, we will hand carry your message and deliver it formally at the Washington, D.C., NOSB meeting.
3. Please consider coming to the meeting in person. This is especially important if you are an organic livestock producer. For meeting information, directions, and accommodation options contact
organic (at) cornucopia.org .
4. If you are an organic livestock producer or processor and cannot make it to the meeting, we will do our best to partner you with another farmer/rancher or a consumer from the Washington area who will read your three-minute written testimony. Again, please contact The Cornucopia Institute, preferably via e-mail, for full instructions on preparing your (proxy) testimony.
You Have the Power
Whether it is livestock raised in industrial conditions, imported organic soybeans from Brazil, or name-brand organic vegetables from China (burning down rain forests and shipping food around the world in not sustainable!), a lot is on the line right now for family-scale farmers. All the hope that organic agriculture has offered is at risk. If successful, this first action concerning organic livestock production will demonstrate to the agribusiness lobbyists, USDA bureaucrats, and members of Congress that the organic farming community is going to fight to maintain the ethical reputation we have earned in the eyes of the consumer.
Please join us!
SIGN PETITION TO THE NATIONAL ORGANIC STANDARDS BOARD TO STOP FACTORY FARM ORGANICS
It will be hand delivered at the National Organic Standards Board
meeting in Washington D.C., March 1-3, 2005.