UPDATE (Sept 27, 2010) Sally Fallon, Founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation sent out a letter today about the Organic Valley decision to ban all dairies under contract from offering raw milk to consumers. They recently decided to allow their dairy members to sell only to family, friends and neighbors (I have a different definition–such that these terms mean everyone!) AND limiting this to only 1% of the volume sold to OV (as if they were a federal rulemaking agency). Sally says the OV milk products are ultrapastuerized, making their products sterile, killing the health-giving life in the organic raw milk. She suggests consumers purchase from another company. Here is an excerpt. I have posted the entire letter in the comments.– Augie
Sally Fallon of WAPF:
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.
Now, the original story:
Was a $1.0 million dollar federal grant and much bigger future guarantees linked to the Organic Valley decision to cut-off raw milk sellers ? Is the decision linked to their cooperation with federal, state and local authorities– or other business partners?
The major U.S. organic dairy corporation, Organic Valley, announced this week they will terminate its contracts with those dairies that sell raw milk. It said that they will give those dairies some time before the pickups and the nice incomes cease.
Nobody has offered any reasons—OV (their statement is below), its customers or industry insiders—although the article at the Complete Patient with its 60 comments from the movers and shakers in the raw milk industry speculated some, but nothing surfaced. The Sustainable Food Blog yesterday said it was a “dangerous move” and “threatens the independence of farmers” but settled a year long intense debate (ara fight). No one has offered a reason—or a possible reason that makes sense or stacks up.
Annie and I both thought something sour with OV in general, but we were not aware things were about to turn putrid with this news, so I spent a few minutes digging and came up with something interesting.
First, why would OV really care if the dairies they contract with deal in raw milk also? It is not the volume issue– a specific dairy not having enough milk to pick up. It is not that raw milk sales amounts to much at all so as to represent a competitive threat to the company. It cannot be a liability issue– that OV would have liability for those who may be sickened or allege to have been sickened from pathogens in milk. A risk in public relations damages is even a weak argument for the ban—should an outbreak occur—and taint the pure brand image OV has built for itself (with the ultra-pasteurized process and all).
I would imagine there are many inside the OV management and board that are tired of dealing with so many of the raw milk promoters who must point out the drawbacks of ultra pasteurization and homogenization, as many think might be dangerous. They may be tired of hearing from their farmers they who cannot stand to drink the processed product– fed up with doing business with people who do not believe in the end-product and the gospel of health that goes with it. Many raw drinkers are vocal concerning the DIFFERENCE and COMPARISON between processed milk and raw. YES there are many in the OV organization who also believe raw is better—when properly produced. So there is a DIVISION within the camp now concerning this and the decision not to do business with the raw folks– reminds me of before civil rights era in the 50s. BUT, this is not likely the reason for the termination.
Today, May 28, 2010—the same week of the raw milk announcement—another announcement was made concerning a $1 million dollar federal award to the city of LaFarge WI, the headquarters for OV for its business partner (OV) principally. This is to build infrastructure (roads, sewers, utilities) for a project that does not even yet exist around their headquarters in La Farge WI. One of the primary requirements to receive this grant is to cooperate with federal, state and local governments (and Regional partners) and their corporate business partners (OV) in the economic sector (in this case, it means the organic dairy industry). Plus, there was probably more specific language in the policies or rules of the federal Economic Development Agency that the City/OV partnership certifies that its operations, including the OV farmer-owners’s compliance with specific federal statutes and regulations (there usually are)—as in the ban on interstate shipment of raw milk for human consumption. See the federal requirements for eligibility— 13 CFR 301.8(e), including a demonstration of
(3) Strong cooperation among the
business sector, relevant Regional
partners and Federal, State and local
(The relevant Regional partners is another part of the shadow governments– regional government by committees– to further the Regional plan of what is called economic sustainability (which is unsustainable). Organic farming is targeted to fall into the UN/US sustainable program– under a different definition of sustainability than you probably have. )
After the Wisconsin Governor Doyle was handled by the powers that be to cause him to do a 180 and veto the raw milk bill against the will of the People as spoken by their Representatives, OV came right along and fell in line. They were for the WI raw milk sales bill before the veto, go figure.
Why couldn’t OV remain neutral– as they have the past 20 years– on the raw milk deal? Why do they figure it is any of their business? Do they have to be so politically-correct? What is in this for them?
There is more to the story of course. Somebody was pressuring them hard. All business decisions are economic. Follow the money.
See today’s story on 5 Winning Strategies for the Farm Food Freedom Wars
You would think OV would be smart enough to enter the low-temp pasteurization and non-homogenized market– and perhaps set up a more localized cluster of processing plants. (Personally, I think low-temp pasteurization is not that big of deal health-wise, but homogenization is more dangerous, with the 90% decrease in fat globule size and the oxidization of the cholesterol. ) Here is the big money opportunity for the (half or so?) dairies fed up with OV– including the ones whose farms may be lost because of the ban. Together, with established private quality control standards and third-party certification, the raw and non-homo markets would soar. I am betting the smart dairies will join forces in a state system and do something like that. I understand, the next thing on the plate in Wisconsin will be to overturn the Governor’s veto.
Here is the notice to the OV farmer-owners and customers:
Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative Statement on Raw Milk Decision
The Raw Milk Debate
May 26, 2010
In March of this year, Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative’s Farmer Board endorsed a statement supporting the legalization of raw milk in the state of Wisconsin that was sent to Governor Doyle. This was in keeping with the cooperative’s long standing support of consumer choice. So why in May, did the CROPP board vote to not allow its farmer-owners to sell raw milk? Is this a reversal of the position?
The raw milk issue at CROPP is one of the most deeply debated topics tackled by the cooperative in its 22 year history. The debate has been active on the membership, board, committee and management team levels for well over a year now, with the hope for a win-win solution. During this year volumes of information—research studies, illness cases, legal precedents, nutritional information and so on were brought forth. Each side was convinced that the information they brought to the table would sway the other side. It is correct to say that we are deeply familiar with both sides of the issue… and we are still divided. So why did the Board finally vote to not allow its members to be in the raw milk business? The synopsis below may help explain the decision:
- Most CROPP farmer-owners drink raw milk and many believe in its benefits. The decision is not because we are “against raw milk.”
- An unknown minority of our 1600+ dairy farmers sell raw milk as a side business. Some simply sell small quantities to neighbors, while others market it more actively.
- Raw milk is growing in popularity and is truly a local product. We believe consumers should have the choice to purchase it directly from the farm and consume it expediently.
- CROPP’s mission is to serve its farmers. We do this by being in the business of selling pasteurized organic milk under our brand, Organic Valley. This is a complex endeavor. Our model is to have regional milk going to regional markets. Our board wants its farmer-owners to stay focused on our model.
- At the request of the membership at the co-op’s most recent annual meeting, the board wanted to end this drawn out raw milk debate, and they took the more conservative route, to prohibit the farmer-owners from being in the raw milk business. This decision will require all our farmer-owners who sell raw milk to choose one business or the other. This may end up being a boon for the raw milk movement in the states where it is legal. The Cooperative cannot condone the sale of raw milk in the states where it is illegal.
- CROPP Cooperative is not against raw milk. We have let our farmers sell raw milk on the side for two decades. We have gone through a well vetted, inclusive process. It is now time for us to stand by our board’s decision.
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