Monday, September 27, 2010

Organic Valley's Anti-Raw Milk Policy

This just in from the Weston A. Price society:

INFORMATION UPDATE
ORGANIC VALLEYS ANTI-RAW MILK POLICY

Dear Members,

As many of you may have already heard, the CROPP cooperative, producer of dairy products and other foodstuffs under the Organic Valley (OV) and Organic Prairie labels, voted at their May 13 board meeting to prohibit any of the CROPP farmer members from selling raw milk as a side business.  The vote was a close onefour in favor, three againstreflecting the division of opinion among the CROPP board members themselves.  After the Board vote, the cooperative took the decision to their Dairy Executive Committee (DEC) for further discussion and another vote.  The result was a split, 20 votes in favor and 20 against. This policy is to take effect January 1, 2011.

We at WAPF did not immediately publicize this new policy, instead writing privately to CROPP CEO George Siemon and the members of the board, urging them to reconsider and take the issue back to the board for further discussion and another vote.  In our letter, we addressed some of what we felt were misguided issues that led to the cooperatives anti-raw milk stance, such as potential liability to CROPP and marketplace competition, pointing out that these were grossly inflated and not legitimate concerns; we noted the potential downside to CROPPs reputation as a supporter of family farms; and, most importantly, we pointed out that the new policy would impose severe economic hardship on many farmers, farmers the co-op was founded to protect.  (For a discussion and rebuttal of CROPPs concerns about raw milk, see below.)

Many of CROPPs farmers have high levels of debt, and they have, over the past few years, faced new financial burdens with lower pay prices and quotas that CROPP had in place for the past yearin some cases amounting to a 30 percent reduction in income.  Their financial situation is recovering somewhat now, but many are challenged to make up for past losses.

Many of their farmers had active raw milk businesses established before they even joined the cooperative, many operating in states where the enterprise is unquestionably legal.  Others developed raw milk customers after their incomes droppedallowing these farms to remain solvent.  The new policy will force these farmers to choose between remaining a CROPP member or selling raw milk exclusively, either of which will likely lead to severe financial stress or even bankruptcy and possible loss of the family farm. 

Despite our grave concerns, I received a response from George Siemon dated June 21, 2010, stating that the anti-raw milk policy would remain in effect.  In the letter, Siemon insisted that CROPP is not against raw milk, and that we are standing on the same side of the river in supporting organic and local food, agricultural reform and corporate reform.

Is that true?  CROPP did indeed start small, as a local cooperative of just a few dozen vegetable farmers, the Coulee Region Organic Produce Pool.  The co-ops seven dairy producers soon branched out from produce to include cheese and eventually other dairy products.  Unfortunately, in so doing, they opted for the industrial model.  Instead of producing what consumers were asking fordairy products as natural as possible, such as low-temperature, non-homogenized milkCROPP chose to market ultra-high temperature (UHT), homogenized industrial-style milk and cream.  (UHT processing takes milk to 230 degrees F, way above the boiling point, thereby killing every enzyme and immune-supporting factor in the milk.)  When they branched out into eggs, they chose the industrial organic confinement model, instead of pastured poultry, something their grass-based farmers were perfectly positioned to do.  Their raw cheese is actually heated to above 150 degrees.  They also sell an Organic Valley brand of soy milk.

We then further delayed making any announcement about the OV decision because we were working behind the scenes with representatives of the co-op, and hoping that OV would reconsider. However, at their most recent board meeting, the board voted 7-0 that raw milk sales by their producers must not exceed 1 percent of their volume, and must be limited to family, friends and neighbors.  While some board members have insisted that this anti-raw milk policy will not be enforced, we hear from others in the organization that OV is planning to strenuously enforce the policy. 

In any event, for the average OV farmer, 1 percent is probably about three to six gallons per day, so the updated policy merely puts a gloss on the original anti-raw milk stance.  The new policy will mean that thousands of consumers who need raw milk for their own and their childrens health will no longer be able to obtain it.

Ironically, the $12 billion dairy industry giant, Dean Foods, which owns the Horizon Organic label, the largest conventional and organic dairy producer in the United States, has specifically stated that its farmers are free to sell or provide raw milk on the side.  Dean Foods/Horizon the good guys and Organic Valley hurting family farmersthis picture seems upside down.

This isn't the first time CROPP seems to have lost its bearings.  A couple of years ago, the management opted to buy some of their milk from a 7200-cow industrial dairy located in an arid part of Texas, until some of their farmer-members found out and put an end to the lunacyboth their farmers and consumers saw the move as a violation of trust.  Organic Valley has always represented itself as being pro-family farmertheir management shouldn't need to be reminded that a 7200-cow dairy is not a family farm! 

Just as in the case of buying from factory farms, we hope CROPP farmer leadership will come to their senses and rescind their destructive anti-raw milk policy.

The unfortunate decision by the CROPP board should galvanize all of us to renew our efforts to purchase as much of our food as possible directly from local farmers; if your only choice for dairy foods and eggs is the local health food store or cooperative, make a point of purchasing from the local dairy producers listed in our Shopping Guide.  Farmer-friendly brands such as Natural by Nature and farmstead dairy producers such as Traders Point Creamery, among many others, are highly rated in The Cornucopia Institute's organic dairy scorecard (ratings of all 120 organic brands www.cornucopia.org) and deserve our food dollars.  Another good choice is to purchase raw grass-fed butter from one of our many advertisers in Wise Traditions and have it shipped to you.

If the farm family you get your raw milk from faces the dilemma of choosing between CROPP and direct raw milk sales, please express your support for them and do everything you can to help them choose the latter.  You can help them build their customer base, reduce their expenses by offering help on the farm, and even provide the funding and financial advice they may desperately need to make the transition.  The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund can help assist with advice and model cow-share and herd-share agreements.

If you feel betrayed by a cooperative that you had always considered to be an ally, you can also visit their website, www.organicvalley.coop, and let them know how you feel.  Maybe if they hear from enough of us, they will realize the damage they are doing to their brands reputation.  Please consider forwarding this message to your friends and family members who might also want to convey their feelings to Organic Valley management.

Above all, lets all make the pledge to vote with our pocketbooks in support of small farmers and artisan producers instead of large commercial dairy interests that put their profits before the interests of the hard-working farmers who produce their milk and other commodities.

Sincerely yours,
Sally Fallon Morell, President
The Weston A. Price Foundation 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Urgent Action Alert on S510 Food Safety Legislation

Although it has been delayed many times, the Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510) continues to be a threat.  This bill greatly expands FDAs authority over both processed foods and fresh fruits and vegetables, and would give FDA authority to impose extensive, burdensome requirements on even the smallest processing facilities and farms who sell to local consumers. 

While the latest version of the bill included some provisions for flexibility and scale-sensitivity, the provisions do not go far enough to protect the small-scale local food businesses that could be destroyed by the new federal regulations.

Take Action:

S.510 could be voted on in the next couple of weeks without much notice.  So the time to call your Senators is NOW! 

You can find your Senators contact information at www.Senate.gov  or by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or toll-free at 877-210-5351.  When you call your Senators offices, ask to speak to the staffer who handles food safety issues, and tell them these two things:

1)  Support the Tester-Hagan amendment to exempt small-scale, direct marketing farms and facilities from some of the most burdensome portions of the bill. This common-sense amendment is critical to protecting local food sources.

2)  Oppose criminal penalties for violations that do not endanger human health or safety: Although it is unclear, there may also be an amendment introduced to combine S.3767 (introduced by Senator Leahy) with S.510, which would create criminal penalties for knowingly introducing adulterated or misbranded food into interstate commerce.  Adulterated or misbranded food could mean simply that the farmer or producer did not have all his paperwork in order or made a technical violation of some kind that does not endanger human health or safety. 

Special Action for OKLAHOMA residents

Senator Coburn is blocking the passage of S.510 by unanimous consent, and has raised a lot of very good objections to the bill.  Please call and THANK HIM for taking this stand.  Call his DC office at  202-224-5754. You can read Senator Coburns statement at:
http://coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/rightnow?ContentRecord_id=8df5cb89-91a2-4ae3-b846-7487db0bd4f0


SAMPLE EMAIL

Dear Senator ________:

As you consider sweeping new federal food safety legislation (S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act), please vote in support of common sense amendments offered by Senators  Tester and Hagan to exempt small-scale direct marketing processing facilities from federal hazard analysis and control regulations and to exempt small-scale direct marketing farms from the produce safety standards.  Local and state health and sanitation laws are enough for producers selling into local markets.  These small-scale producers do not need  and many may not survive  new federal regulations.

In August, half a billion eggs were recalled to try to prevent the spread of salmonella that had originated on two related farms in Iowa.  Those two farms had sold eggs under at least 25 different labels in 12 different states!  The recall is symptomatic of the industrialized food system characterized by mega-farms and long, complex supply chains and distribution systems. This food system needs reform. 

But without Senators Tester's and Hagans common sense amendment to S. 510, the bill actually hurts food safety by imposing FDA regulation on the local food businesses who provide consumers with an alternative to the industrialized food system.  More and more people are seeking out local producers to buy fresh, wholesome foods from people they trust, and they dont need or want FDA to interfere.

I urge you to vote FOR the Tester-Hagan Amendment to S. 510!

I also urge you to vote against any attempt to create criminal penalties for adulterated or misbranded food.  These terms as defined in S.510 could include minor technical violations that harm no one. Criminal violations should be limited to those who knowingly cause serious harm to human health or safety.

Signed,
Your name and state

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