“If there is enforcement of the Origin of Livestock rule, the industrial dairies will be required to do what is simply a given for the real organic dairies. We are all aware that enforcement of the pasture rule has been a failure.” – Linley Dixon
An Origin of Livestock Victory for Organic
“As I’ve gotten to the age I’m at, I have a harder and harder time being politically correct so I’m going to tell you exactly what I think. It’s because all of the illegal milk that's coming on the market from these factory farms that are not truly organic. They don’t pasture their cows, they buy a lot of this illegal grain. They milk their cows 3 times a day and push them hard for production. And they’re doing a huge disservice to people who think they are buying from small family farms by buying this organic milk, and to people who are having health issues and think they’re buying a healthier product, when it’s not.”
-Kevin Engelbert, Real Organic Podcast
The Real Organic symposium last January discussed the many reasons why organic dairy farmers are receiving pay prices below the cost of production.
Since we covered the issue, we are happy to share some positive developments related to the issues surrounding Milk & Money.
1) After decades of lobbying the National Organic Program, last Tuesday the USDA finally announced an Origin of Livestock Final Rule. This requires all organic dairy cows to be raised as organic from the last third of gestation. The rule will close a giant loophole that industrial organic dairies have been using to cut their costs. They do this by raising calves on conventional feed and then cycling them back into organic production for milking. If there is enforcement, the industrial dairies will be required to do what is simply a given for the real organic dairies. We are all aware that the enforcement of the pasture rule has been a failure.
2) In early March, Organic Valley announced that they are sending “letters of intent” to purchase the milk from approximately 80 farms that were dropped by Horizon last fall. While priority will be given to the current members of the cooperative, the hope is that these farms will become contracted members over time.
3) The USDA announced a $20 million investment into the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center. While this money is not earmarked for organic farms, it can be accessed by organic dairies to help them make upgrades to their farms.
Will the Origin of Livestock Rule Save Family-Scale Dairy?
It is so important to acknowledge the wins when we get them…however. I am doubtful whether it is enough to halt the steady disappearance of family-scale grass-based dairies from the rural landscape.
Our latest podcast episode with Kevin Englebert called out two major reasons why the pay price is so low for unethical organic dairies:
1) The failure of the organic certifiers and the National Organic Program to enforce the organic grazing requirements.
2) The importation of fraudulent organic grain which gives industrial dairies that confine their cows a significant advantage overgrazing dairies.
These problems have furthered the consolidation in the industry, which actually limits ethical brands from differentiating themselves because they rely on each other for shared processing facilities.
“It comes back to these farms that are producing this illegal milk, the certifiers that certify them, and the National Organic Program that allows it to happen.”
-Kevin Engelbert, Engelbert Farms
Click to watch or listen to our interview with Kevin here (transcript included)
Did you catch us on Vermont Public Radio this week celebrating the Origin of Livestock rule?
We had a rocking time at our first Real Friends Book Club with Eliot Coleman. Want to join us for our next Book Club? Sign up to be a Real Friend here.