Watchdog: Organic Community ‘Taking the Law into Its Own Hands’

CORNUCOPIA, Wis., Sept. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Announcing the filing of additional legal complaints with the USDA, and threatening civil litigation, the nation’s most aggressive organic watchdog, The Cornucopia Institute, blasted the USDA for not penalizing the industry’s largest organic milk producer after government regulators found they had perpetrated consumer fraud.

On August 29, the USDA announced that Colorado-based Aurora Organic Dairy had willfully violated 14 provisions of the federal organic law. The USDA investigation began after the agency was alerted to organic irregularities at Aurora’s operations by Cornucopia.

“This giant agribusiness enterprise was found to have illegally confined their cattle to feedlots, depriving them of fresh air and healthy grazing conditions as required by law,” said Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst for the Wisconsin-based organization. “Aurora was also found to have brought conventional cattle into their operation instead of milking cows that had been managed organically for their entire lives,” Kastel added.

“Anyone found to be committing willful violations of the regulations, anyone, should not remain certified,” affirmed Jim Riddle former chairman of the National Organic Standards Board and a recognized international authority on organic certification. Family-scale farmers from all over the country have questioned on Internet forums whether they would have been allowed one year of supervision instead of being fined and having their organic certification revoked.

Aurora is the leading private-label organic milk processor supplying store brands for Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, Safeway, and many other grocery chains.

This week Cornucopia filed another USDA complaint alleging that a new 4000-4200 head dairy that Aurora has brought into production, described by Aurora as a “pioneering green-fields model for organic dairies,” was skirting the law.

“Our initial investigations, including photography and interviews with dairy industry professionals who visited the facility, indicate that this giant farm is also not grazing their cattle or providing pasture in accordance with federal law,” stated Will Fantle, research director at Cornucopia. The group also filed a legal complaint against the two USDA accredited certifiers associated with Aurora for not doing their jobs.

Cornucopia is currently conferring with a team of lawyers about a potential civil action on behalf of farmers and other processors that have been economically injured by a flood of surplus milk, causing a recent drop in organic milk prices. Much of the surplus is due to Aurora facilities.

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Source: The Cornucopia Institute

CONTACT: Mark Kastel of The Cornucopia Institute, +1-608-625-2042