October 13, 2008

Collateral Damage: Organic Farmers Being Squeezed Out


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

Corporate Takeover Threatens Farmers,Mission

CORNUCOPIA, Wis., Oct. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Groups representing organic farmers and their customers are calling on consumers to help save the organic industry by exclusively patronizing dairies, and other brands, that uphold the spirit and letter of federal organic law. They claim the acquisition of major brands by corporate agribusiness, and their dependence on factory farms, threatens to force families off the land and deprive consumers of the superior nutritional food they think they are paying for.

"This could be the end of the organic industry as we know it," said Mark A. Kastel, codirector of The Cornucopia Institute, widely recognized as the organic industry's most aggressive farming watchdog. Cornucopia reports that the proliferation of industrial- scale dairies has bloated the organic milk supply, inflated the price of feed for dairy cows, and resulted in a financial crisis for family farmers, even as the market continues growing -- defying the general economic downturn.

The Wisconsin-based watchdog announced that it has filed formal legal complaints, seeking USDA enforcement, against two more operators of giant industrial dairies. They claim the facilities are "masquerading as organic." Cornucopia also announced an update to its popular organic scorecard helping consumers make informed marketplace choices in selecting dairy brands representing the best organic practices.

For eight years, participants in the organic community -- farmers, consumers, retailers, and other stakeholders -- have fought the industrialization of organic milk by giant corporations and factory farms milking as many as 10,000 animals. Although the National Organic Standards Board, the expert panel set up by Congress to advise the USDA, has voted to crack down on industry scofflaws five times since 2000, Bush administration officials have refused to act.

"This cynical corporate takeover of organic farming, an agriculture segment that is held in high regard by consumers, resulting in a highly successful and growing market, has been aided and abetted by the gross disregard of the USDA's enforcement responsibilities," said Merrill Clark, a certified organic livestock producer and former member of the USDA's National Organic Standards Board.

Cornucopia's legal complaints to the USDA targeted Phoenix-based Shamrock Farms, which operates an industrial dairy milking approximately 11,000 cows in the desert 54 miles south of their plant, and the Rockview Farms Dairy of Downey, California, the operator of another giant industrial dairy in the desert north of Las Vegas, Nevada.

"Not only do these confinement operations create an unfair competitive playing field, discriminating against all the family farmers who work hard to fulfill both the letter and intent of the national organic standards, they also are denying the consumer the extra healthful nutrients that university studies have verified as being present in the milk of cows that graze fresh green grass," said Kathie Arnold, president of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance.

Cornucopia's updated organic dairy scorecard ranks every brand in the country--large and small--based on their ethical approach to their milk production. It rates 107 organic brands covering milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, and ice cream.

For more, visit http://www.cornucopia.org.

Contact: Mark Kastel, 608.625.2042

SOURCE The Cornucopia Institute

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