Home » 5th Generation Dairy In Crisis

Bob Bansen and his family milk 200 cows on 470 acres of pasture in Oregon. Their organic farm, Emerald Veil Jerseys, is a 5th generation family farm. In his “Know Your Farmer” video, Bansen reveals that he might not be in business long enough to pass down the dairy farm to the 6th generation.

The USDA is the reason that Bob Bansen is operating in the red. All American dairy is threatened by overproduction, but pastured real organic dairy is not overproducing. There are millions of people still willing to pay a premium for real organic milk. They just have trouble find it. Word is getting out that certified organic is not always as pasture-based as it should be. The majority of organic milk is now coming from large confinement CAFOs, where the cows are fed in a lot and the feed is grown far, far away.

And if you want to buy real organic from cows that go out to lush pasture every day? If you want to get superior milk? If you want to support farming that enhances real regeneration of the planet? Support the Real Organic Project label.

Greg Ibach, the USDA Under Secretary who oversees the National Organic Program, is one reason why Bob Bansen is currently operating in the red.

Ibach has failed to implement the 2015 proposed rule on the Origin of Livestock, which would end the practice of cycling cows in and out of organic production. This “loophole” is used by many of the mega-dairies to lower their cost of production. It is cheaper to buy in young conventional cows than to raise them organically. The failure to implement the proposed rule is threatening the existence of thousands of organic family farms.

The Origin of Livestock Rule would require all organic dairies (once transitioned) to milk cows that have been raised organically for their entire lives. Go figure!

You can comment to the USDA before Dec 2 on the urgent need to implement the Origin of Livestock Rule. Even if you have already submitted a comment on this Rule in the past, please do it again.

Young Jersey cow on pasture looks directly at the camera
A young Jersey cow at Emerald Veil Jerseys in Yamhill, Oregon has been raised organically for her entire life.

The painful thing to organic farmers and the organic community is that we shouldn’t need the USDA to implement the Origin of Livestock rule.

We shouldn’t need the USDA to create new rules for real “outdoor access” for poultry, or the Pasture Rule, or new rules to raise crops in fertile soil either!

We simply need certifiers to act with integrity and enforce the current laws in the Organic Food Production Act. And we need the National Organic Program to require that certifiers enforce the standards. The NOP has the power to do that today.

Wisconsin dairy farms have been lost due to so-called agricultural efficiencies like concentrated animal feeding operations
Mega-dairies exploit a loophole given to them by suspect certifiers allowing them to transition cows in and out of organic production.

Current organic law states: “Once an entire, distinct herd has been converted to organic production, all dairy animals shall be under organic management from the last third of gestation.” There is no confusion. There should be no “loophole.”

The current law is clear. The allowance for a one-time transition of a herd from conventional to organic production obviously means one time, not continuous!

Just like the current requirement for “outdoor access” obviously means chickens on dirt they can scratch in, not a cement screen porch.

It’s time that both certifiers and the NOP do their jobs! In the meantime, support the farmers signing up for the Real Organic Project so that we can find their products in the marketplace.

Yours in the dirt,

Linley