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    Repiglican Roast

    A spirited discussion of public policy and current issues

    Location: The mouth of being

    I'm furious about my squandered nation.

    Wednesday, July 02, 2008

    Organic Valley Milk is NOT Organically Produced. Hold Them Accountable

    Over the past 20 years, Wisconsin-based Organic Valley has grown into the nation's largest organic cooperative, carving out a niche selling milk from small dairy farmers who treat their cows like members of the family.

    So imagine the shock within the organic food world when an industry watchdog group recently discovered Organic Valley quietly has been getting some of its milk from a giant Texas dairying operation with more than 5,000 cows.

    "Buying milk from this factory farm could potentially be catastrophic to our marketplace reputation," said Darlene Coehoorn, a longtime Organic Valley member from Rosendale, Wis., where she milks 50 cows with her husband, Dan.


    "Sometimes you have to make compromises; that's just the nature of business," said Organic Valley co-founder and CEO George Siemon. "I made the decision to buy the product, and I'm willing to take the heat."

    Siemon said Organic Valley managers did visit the 50,000-acre Natural Prairie Dairy operation in Delhart, Texas, and found that, unlike other factory farms, the operation was doing some grazing as opposed to strictly confining cattle to a feedlot.

    But the relationship with Natural Prairie Dairy has angered many Organic Valley members, who fear doing business with a mega-farm will ultimately cost Organic Valley customers and hurt the cooperative's hard-earned reputation.

    "What I find most objectionable is the fact that some giant dairy that doesn't even qualify for membership in our co-op can get by with the bare minimum of meeting federal organics standards, but family producers are expected to uphold the high standards set forth by Organic Valley," said Coehoorn, who also serves as president of the Midwest Organic Dairy Producers Alliance.

    Just how long Organic Valley will continue buying milk from Natural Prairie Dairy remains unclear. In May, Siemon told the co-op's executive committee it would cease buying milk from the Texas dairy effective June 1, but that date has since passed.




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