Dairy's Organic Status Threatened for Failing to Pasture Cows

WASHINGTON, DC, August 29, 2007 (ENS) - One of the nation's largest organic dairies agreed today to make major changes in the way it operates a Colorado facility and stop posting the organic label to some of its milk after the U.S Department of Agriculture threatened to revoke its organic certification for not allowing its cows enough time at pasture.

Aurora Organic Dairy provides the organic milk sold at many supermarket chains under their own brand names, including Wal-Mart, Costco, Wild Oats, Trader Joe’s, and Safeway.

To continue operating as a certified organic dairy, Aurora must provide "daily access to pasture during the growing season, acknowledging that lactation is not a reason to deny access to pasture," according to a statement from the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service.

The Agricultural Marketing Service, AMS, entered into a consent agreement with Aurora after it issued a Notice of Proposed Revocation to the dairy earlier this year alleging violations of National Organic Program regulations.

The AMS initiated its investigation of Aurora in 2005 after the Wisconsin based Cornucopia Institute, an advocate for family farms, claimed that Aurora Organic violated federal standards that require access to pasture for organic dairy cows at its Platteville, Colorado facility.

In looking into this complaint, AMS investigators also uncovered the improper transitioning of animals from traditional to organic practices and a failure to maintain adequate records.

Under the consent agreement released today, Aurora must meet several conditions at its Platteville facility. The company must reduce the number of cows to a level consistent with available pasture with agreed maximum stocking densities.

The company must eliminate improperly transitioned cows from its herd and not market those cows' milk as organic, and agree to use the more stringent transition process in federal regulations for animals added to its dairy herd.

Aurora also agreed not to renew the organic certification for its Woodward, Colorado facility.

AMS will exercise increased scrutiny over Aurora's operations during a one-year probationary review period.

If Aurora does not abide by the agreement during that time, AMS may withdraw from the agreement and could revoke the organic certification for Aurora's Platteville plant.

"The organic industry is booming and the National Organic Program is a high priority for USDA," said Bruce Knight, under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs, "and through this consent agreement consumers can be assured that milk labeled as organic in the supermarket is indeed organic."

Under terms of the consent agreement Aurora also must file new organic systems plans for its Platteville facility and its facility in Dublin, Texas. These new plans will address all of the inconsistencies between its operations and the National Organic Program regulations identified in the notice.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.