Wisconsin Ag News Headlines
Cornucopia Institute Goes After Organic Dairies Over Heifers
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 11/23/2010

The Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute has filed a formal legal complaint in an attempt to halt the USDA from allowing factory farms producing organic milk from bringing conventional dairy cattle onto their farms. The organization claims the practice places family-scale farmers at a competitive disadvantage, and is explicitly prohibited in the federal regulations governing the organic industry.

Cornucopia's latest formal legal complaint spotlights the Natural Prairie Dairy in Dalhart, Texas. The dairy, milking over 7000 cows in two barns, is thought to be the largest certified organic dairy in the United States.

"Real organic farmers don't buy replacement heifers," said Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at the Cornucopia Institute. "Real organic farmers sell 'surplus' heifers."

Kastel feels that in the factory farm model, animals are pushed for high production and get sick at an early age because of stress; whereas organic cows are generally healthy and live longer lives.

"For years, the USDA allowed giant organic factory dairies, milking as many as 10,000 cows, to confine their animals in huge feedlots and buildings instead of providing them access to pasture as required by federal law," the group said in a statement. "Sparked by Cornucopia's legal complaints against Aurora Dairy, Dean Foods and others operating phony organic feedlot dairies, a movement began to close loopholes and clarify pasture requirements for feed and grazing. The USDA's release of strict new pasture rules this past February counts as a major victory for organic family farms and consumers."

Kastel says bringing in yearling heifers and 'converting them to organic' by managing them organically during the second year of their life has become standard operating practice at some of the same large industrial dairies.

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