Organic Farmers Association is excited to announce new team members to elevate farmer voices at the national level


July 18, 2023—Funding from USDA Transition to Organic Partnerships Program (TOPP) has allowed us to formally create a Farmer Services Program to better serve the needs of farmers curious about organic production, farmers interested in transitioning to organic and certified organic farmers. Julia Barton will begin August 14 as our new Farmers Services Director. Harriet Behar has already started as our new Farmer Services Consultant.  Both Julia and Harriet will be available to provide direct technical assistance to farmers nationwide and connect them with local organic services as appropriate. We will also be targeting technical assistance to farmers in the Great Plains Region of South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, and Oklahoma. The Farmer Services Team will also be available to better support farmers in crisis and support farmers experiencing market disruptions in the organic sector. Organic Farmers Association will also be adding a Communications Manager, Madison Letizia, to our team to support better communication to farmers interested in organic practices and certification.

Farmer Services Director: Julia Barton Julia is currently the Policy Specialist at OEFFA and has worked with farmers transitioning to organic and certified organic farmers during her time at OEFFA. She is passionate about elevating farmers’ voices for the changes they need to be successful, while also providing practical knowledge crucial to on-farm success. She and her partner run an organic farm in Ohio. Julia(at)

Farmer Services Consultant: Harriet Behar. Harriet has supported organic farmers her whole career, and will bring a wealth of knowledge to all kinds of farmers–even if they are raising organic ostrich! She is an organic farmer in Wisconsin and has worked decades as an organic inspector throughout much of the Great Plains, North Central, and Midwest regions. Harriet(at)

Communications Manager: Madison Letizia. Madison is a communications professional with a passion for organic farming, bringing over a decade of marketing, social media, and writing professionalism to the team to help us better communicate all the great work OFA is doing to support organic farmers! Madison(at)

Strengthening Organic Enforcement at Last!

Download a pdf of this article to read & share.

By Harriet Behar

The Organic Farmers Association applauds the release of the final Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule, a significant improvement to the USDA organic regulations. All operations will need to be in full compliance by March 2024. Spurred by a few high-profile cases of fraudulent organic sales, this new regulation closes many loopholes and seeks to enhance the quality of organic audits and oversight.

Organic farmers will see these changes in the certification process and the organic supply chain, as well as being required to do their part in the prevention of fraud.

Types of Operations Now Requiring Certification

A variety of operations that were exempt from organic certification, will now be required to go through the organic certification process annually. Operations that trade, or facilitate trade including importers and brokers that own organic product, even if they do not take physical possession of the organic product, are now required to have oversight through the organic certification process.

The exemptions to organic certification are limited to very small operations, retail

Download a FactSheet Version highlighting what FARMERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT S.O.E.

stores that do not process organic products, warehouses that store products in tamper-proof sealed containers, and brokers that do not take ownership or possession of products. These exempt operations still must follow rules that require recordkeeping and legal labeling of organic, prevent commingling with nonorganic products and prevent contamination of organic items. Transportation companies are not required to be certified, but those certified organic entities hiring these companies must make sure the integrity of the organic products is maintained during transport.

New Supply Chain Tracking

Import certificates for all organic product coming into the U.S. is being integrated with Customs and Border Protection (CBP), so CBP officials are aware to look for this organic status on incoming shipments. Organic certification agencies are required to collect and oversee production and purchasing information and share this with other certifiers in the supply chain for full transparency. The National Organic Program maintains a listing of all organic operations and their products, entitled the Organic Integrity Database (OID), which will be improved to manage this data. The acreage of every certified organic operation will be updated yearly, but only certification agencies can view that information. As part of this transparency, all certifiers will use one organic certificate template, so those certificates will have the same information, the same terminology describing the items, and the same place on the certificate to find the information. When an operation has lost organic status, this information must be posted to the public OID within 72 hours.

New Requirements for Certifiers

Certifiers are required to work together on fraud investigations and to do supply chain traceability audits on high-risk operations and products on a regular basis. Other information, such as where inputs are purchased and production yields, may be shared among certifiers to verify organic status, but this information is protected under this rule as confidential and is not to be released to the public.

New Requirements for Farmers

Organic farmers are required under the new regulation to do their part to deter and detect fraud in the supply chain. All organic operations, including farmers, must have a fraud prevention plan in their Organic System Plan (OSP).

Certifiers are now reviewing the OSPs they provide their farmer clients and will be adding a new section where the farmer will describe what systems they have in place to verify and prove the organic status of all purchased organic labeled feedstuffs, seeds, livestock or other items used to produce their own organically labeled products.

Records must be maintained and kept that verify the organic status throughout the growing season, the life of the animal, or any movement of crops or animals (off-farm storage or custom heifer pasturing for instance). Proof of organic certification of the last entity in the supply chain before the farmer received that product, must be kept, as well as the farmer providing their organic status when the product is sold. The point of this requirement is to keep every link in the supply chain transparent and traceable. For bulk products, the name of the most recent certified organic operation that owned/and or handled that product, must be present on the documentation that goes with that bulk item.

New Requirements for Inspectors

All inspections will now include a traceability audit which shows the organic status from purchase or growing through sale and a balance audit which tracks that enough organic product was present or produced to justify the volumes of final organic product sold. This would include enough approved seed to grow a crop, enough organic feed purchased for the number of animals on the farm, or enough acreage with reasonable yields for the number of bushels or boxes sold.

Certification agencies must conduct more unannounced inspections equaling at least 5% of all of the certifier’s clients, with no more than 4 hours of notice given before the inspector arrives. Certification inspections must be done at least once during the calendar year, even if the timing is different between years. There have been operations that have gone 14-16 months or even longer between inspections, this will no longer be allowed.

To lessen paperwork, OSP updates are allowed to be streamlined to only require yearly updates to the operation’s OSPs where there have been changes, such as seed purchased or what crops are grown in which fields, but not what equipment is present, if nothing new has been purchased.

Higher Standards for Certification Staff & Inspectors

The SOE rule has greatly enhanced the qualifications for personnel working within the organic certification system. All inspectors need at least 2,000 hours of experience relevant to the areas they will be inspecting before they are allowed to inspect those specific types of operations. New organic inspectors must complete at least 50 hours of training in their first year prior to performing organic inspections independently. Experienced inspectors must have at least 10 hours of training every year, and if they are inspecting a new area, such as starting to visit dairy farms, they need another 5 hours of training. People reviewing OSPs, organic inspection reports, organic materials and other certification duties within the certification office must have knowledge, skills and experience to perform their duties, including understanding the various types of traceability and balance audits present in the organic inspection reports. At least 50 hours of training is needed to start this work, with 10 more hours of training annually. Once every three years, every inspector will be accompanied on at least one inspection by a certification agency staff member to evaluate their expertise on-site; they will also be required to undergo an annual evaluation.

New Regulations for Grower Groups

Grower group certification, common in many developing countries, is rare in the U.S. This rule clarifies that it is allowed domestically.

Grower group certification works best for farmer-cooperatives of small growers and allows for one certificate for the group rather than each individual. But the group must act as one entity. In a grower group certification, the group is reviewed internally by the group and the inspections may cover a few group-member farms each year, but not every operator. There is no monetary or size limit to who can participate in a grower group, which is most typically present in developing countries with very small landowners to provide a pathway for their low-income farms to achieve organic certification.

While OFA supports the grower group certification model and sees a lot of positive ways it can support small-scale domestic growers, the new rule does pose some concerns. An example of OFA concern under this rule would be applying it to large vertically integrated poultry operations, where each operation

is run by an individual family, and they all purchase feed and birds from the same company that then buys their eggs or birds. These individual operations could gross a million dollars a year, but might never have an on-site inspection. Many international grower groups are farmer cooperatives, but there is no requirement for this type of producer control or input into the management of the grower group in the Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule.

Rise in Certification Costs?

OFA is concerned the implementation of the rule will cause the cost of organic certification to rise significantly. While the NOP has assured OFA that this rule is not intended to negatively affect small operations, it is something OFA will be watching. The highest risk for fraud comes from larger operations because they put more product into the marketplace, and small farms should not bare the financial burden of their increased impact on market integrity.  OFA expects the requirement for training will most likely lead to higher inspection fees, as well as the salaries paid to certification agency personnel. More time will be given to each organic certification, both at inspection and during review to do the detailed and comprehensive audits, leading to higher costs as well. For this reason, OFA has asked Congress to provide more money to the organic certification cost share program, to provide up to $1500 per type of production, instead of $750 annually and 100% reimbursement rather than capping it at 75%.

Strong Organic Enforcement Is Needed

Organic popularity in the marketplace continues to grow. The stronger oversight found within this rule offers both fraud deterrents as well as confidence that those doing certification activities are skilled enough to detect fraud. Those doing the hard work of organic production deserve strong enforcement of the organic label.


Harriet Behar runs organic Sweet Springs Farm in Gays Mills, Wisconsin. She serves on the OFA Governing Council and Policy Committee and has been involved with federal, state and local policy advocacy for over 30 years.

Fall 2022 OFA Oral Comments to NOSB

October 18, 2022
Kate Mendenhall, Executive Director

RE: General Comments to the NOSB via Webinar Testimony

Thank you, NOSB members, for the opportunity to speak before you today.  My name is Kate Mendenhall, I am the Executive Director of the Organic Farmers Association.  OFA represents a strong national voice for domestic certified organic farmers.

Today I will be addressing Compliance, Accreditation, & Certification topics.

Proposal: NOSB Technical Support:  We have spoken to this point before and support research assistants for NOSB members.  We have concerns about these assistants being USDA employees for both the potential conflict of interest and the pervasive lack of organic knowledge within the USDA.  The board functions well currently, and research assistants should not interfere but support individual members’ research needs as directed by the board member.  We also urge the NOP to consider expanding the approved reimbursable expenses to help farmers on the board cover costs they incur to participate in the meetings, such as the cost of hired help for their farm while performing board duties.

Fraud Prevention:  OFA appreciates the Board’s work on deterring fraud, it continually ranks as a high priority for farmers.  We support the subcommittee’s proposal requiring acreage reporting and their recommendations to the NOP regarding small-diversified growers. The reporting should account for succession planting where total acres/crop may exceed total farm acres.  Organic paperwork is already burdensome for farmers, so streamlining this requirement and making sure it aligns with farms using paper records is important.

Traceability requirements must consider the different marketing structures of various commodities; tracing sales data for commodity corn is very different from tracing sales data for highly perishable wholesale market vegetables with many buyers.

In addition to oversight of certifiers, NOP must provide clear guidance when there is a discrepancy or questions on how organic standards should be interpreted.  Any guidance should be transparent and distributed to all accredited certifiers. Regarding standardized forms, we encourage a pilot project focusing on areas of high fraud risk like grains to identify how it affects certifiers, inspectors, and farmers.  We support exploring common forms for consistency and encourage collaboration with certifiers to identify the best existing models for replication and trial as well as assess what forms farmers currently use.  Common forms do have a positive ability to create more consistency among certifiers and expand the opportunity for translation.

Finally, I’d like to support more board and NOP attention to racial equity within the organic community and efforts to actively address barriers to organic certification and success.  While organic certification is understandably rigid as a regulatory system and at times that is incredibly important, at times prioritizing our humanity and our commitment to the principles of care and fairness is equally if not more important.  Understanding our cultural differences, barriers to entering agriculture, and additional societal weight that people of color unfairly carry is important to expand who gets and stays certified organic.  As forms are created and systems refined, ensuring a racial equity lens is applied must be a top priority.


October 20, 2022
Lily Hawkins, Policy Director

RE: General Comments to the NOSB via Webinar Testimony

Thank you, NOSB members, for the opportunity to speak before you today.  My name is Lily Hawkins, I am the Policy Director of the Organic Farmers Association.  OFA was created to be a strong national voice and advocate for domestic certified organic farmers.  

Today I will be addressing the issues of climate-smart agriculture and contamination.

OFA members agree with the NOSB that certified organic production should be automatically considered “climate-smart” and therefore eligible for any and all funding opportunities and support through relevant USDA programs. 

Organic agriculture has tremendous potential to address climate change while making sure that family farms flourish. But to meet its full potential, we need the USDA to take several steps to protect the integrity of the USDA-certified organic label. This is needed to maintain the standing of the organic label with consumers, ensure a level playing field for organic farmers, and make sure that organic methods provide the maximum benefit in addressing the climate crisis. 

There are several critical areas of NOP rulemaking and enforcement necessary to ensure that organic agriculture is truly climate-smart: 

First, the NOP must finalize the long-overdue Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards Rule as quickly as possible to strengthen standards that ensure outdoor access and prioritize pasture-based systems. 

The NOP must also prioritize enforcement of the existing pasture standard to guarantee that organic animals are raised in climate-friendly pasture-based systems.

Second, the NOP must ensure that Organic Farming is Soil-Based. The NOP’s decision to allow hydroponic operations to be certified organic, as well as inconsistent interpretation of the NOP’s guidance for how container operations transition to organic, could undermine consumer confidence in the organic label overall and reduce the potential for organic agriculture to sequester carbon. For organic agriculture to maximize its potential as climate-friendly agriculture, soil must be recognized as the cornerstone of organic production. 


Another area where NOP can support farmers in their efforts to ensure organic integrity is in providing support and guidance to farmers dealing with contamination from outside sources. 

This comes in the form of genetic contamination from GMOs, and pesticide drift like what’s being caused by Dicamba, which can travel great distances. And more recently - legacy contamination from per-and poly-fluoroalkyl chemicals (PFAS) or “forever” chemicals is coming to light. This PFAS contamination comes from municipal and industrial sludge applications that took place decades ago, but is only recently being tested for. The problem isn’t limited to organic producers, but organic farmers have bravely led the way in pulling products once contamination has been discovered.

Farmers need help from state and federal agencies to cope with contamination, including assistance with soil and water testing, technical assistance for determining whether farm operations can safely continue, and compensation for lost production and lost farm value due to contamination. 

NOP can help by advocating on this issue at higher levels of the USDA, APHIS, RMA, and the EPA. and by providing certifiers with specific guidance on what to do when organic operations experience drift/contamination.  We encourage this guidance to be developed with farmer input.

Farmers’ investment in organic needs to be protected from these sources of contamination. 


Organic Grain Growers: Iowa Suspends Global Processing Inc.'s Grain Dealer Licenses

On October 7, 2022, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) suspended the warehouse and grain dealer licenses for Global Processing Inc. of Kanawha, Iowa. As a result of this action, Global Processing Inc. shall not operate as a warehouse operator or grain dealer within Iowa until further order of the Department and must surrender any warehouse and grain dealer certificates to the Department.   The company also has grain facilities in Minnesota and Nebraska.

Global Processing Inc.’s licenses were suspended in Iowa in accordance with Iowa Code Chapters 203 and 203C. The suspension is based upon the company’s failure to have sufficient funds to cover producer grain checks and failure to file monthly financial statements in accordance with Iowa Codes 203 and 203C. The Department has requested that a hearing on the Department’s action be held in the immediate future, that date will be set on Wednesday, October 12.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Grain Warehouse Bureau regulates and examines the financial solvency of grain dealers and grain warehouse operators. The functions of the Bureau include warehouse licensing, warehouse examination, grain dealer licensing, and grain dealer examinations.  If you sell to an Iowa-licensed grain dealer the elevator is required to pay the farmer within 30 days of grain delivery.  If the farmer request immediate or earlier payment, the buyer is REQUIRED to pay the farmer within 24-48 hours of that request.  If a grain farmer selling in Iowa finds that the buyer has not met these regulatory protections for farmers, farmers should call the IDALS Grain Warehouse Bureau to report a claim:  515-281-5324.  While the bureau monitors annual, and sometimes quarterly, and monthly financial statements for grain dealers, hearing from farmers that a buyer is having trouble paying producers is helpful for IDALS to conduct an investigation in a timely manner.


Unfortunately, you will need to wait until Global Processing's hearing date to determine whether their license will be revoked.  If it is revoked, then you should call your state Department of Agriculture's Grain Division.    In the event their license is revoked, click here for our state directory and instructions we created for the Pipeline Foods' bankruptcy case in 2021.


The IDALS staff are recommending farmers contact their attorneys to evaluate where grain needs to be delivered and whether they can get out of those obligations.




OLPS Comment Deadline Extended: Nov. 10, 2022

The USDA extended the comment deadline for the organic animal welfare standards to NOVEMBER 10, 2022.  Please sign our petition and submit an individual comment to the USDA in favor of fast finalization, implementation, and enforcement of the OLPS rule.   Farmers have been waiting far too long for the organic standards to clarify animal welfare standards the great majority of organic livestock farmers already implement on their farms.

Organic Farmers Association Hires New Policy Director 

Former Food and Water Watch Maryland Senior Organizer will lead organic policy advocacy efforts. 

September 12, 2022: Organic Farmers Association, the nation’s unified voice for certified organic farmers, has named Lillian Hawkins to replace outgoing Patty Lovera as its new Policy Director who is moving to a fulltime role with Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment.

Hawkins brings an impressive background in grassroots organizing on farm and environmental issues and lobbying in Maryland with Food & Water Watch (FWW). Previously, she founded a local advocacy organization, SOMA Action, where she honed her activism and lobbying skills to enact change for her community. 

“I am looking forward to working closely with organic farmers from across the country to make sure their policy priorities are strongly represented in Washington, D.C.,” said Hawkins. “Working directly with community stakeholders to make their lives better has been a passion of mine, and I am excited to bring my skills to helping organic farmers build a stronger farmer movement with Organic Farmers Association.”

“Hawkin’s background in effective grassroots mobilization around sustainable environmental policy will help Organic Farmers Association coordinate strong campaigns to realize wins for organic farmers in Washington, D.C.,” said Organic Farmers Association director Kate Mendenhall.  

As Policy Director, Hawkins will work directly with Organic Farmers Association’s elected Policy Committee, comprised of twelve certified organic farmer members and six advisory organizational members from six U.S. geographic regions. She will facilitate the annual grassroots policy development process, where all U.S. certified organic farmers are invited to submit policy priorities and policy positions for the Policy Committee’s review, and ultimately OFA farmer members’ vote.  She will also lead OFA’s efforts on the upcoming farm bill, making sure organic farmers’ priorities are included.

Hawkins will build on the robust policy program led for the past three years by Lovera.  Lovera will continue to be an advisor to OFA during the transition and comments,  “Lily Hawkins will be a strong advocate for organic farmer policy priorities, and is well positioned to bring a strong organic voice into the development of the next Farm Bill.”  

Hawkins will begin her work at Organic Farmers Association preparing certified organic farmers for the upcoming farm bill and Washington, D.C. advocacy day in March 2023 when certified organic farmers from across the country will unite for training and advocacy to represent their fellow organic farmers and educate elected officials about the needs of organic farmers.

To join or support Organic Farmers Association in its efforts to bring an organic voice to national policy, please visit


ABOUT ORGANIC FARMERS ASSOCIATION: The mission of the Organic Farmers Association is to provide a strong and unified national voice for domestic certified organic producers. With the purpose to build and support a farmer-led national organic farmer movement and national policy platform by developing and advocating policies that benefit organic farmers; strengthening and supporting the capacity of organic farmers and farm organizations; and supporting collaboration and leadership among state, regional and national organic farmer organizations. Learn more at


Media Contact:

Kate Mendenhall
Executive Director
Phone: 202-643-5363


TAKE ACTION! Tell USDA to finalize and enforce strong organic animal welfare standards ASAP

The Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards (OLPS) Proposed Rule encompasses decades of widespread organic community debate and support to update organic standards with critical animal welfare provisions.

Click to read & sign our PETITION to USDA

OLPS clarifies the production standards of avian and mammalian livestock to support consistent enforcement across producers and re-establish a strong organic label that assures consumers that USDA-certified organic livestock products meet a robust and uniform standard valuing both environmental and animal welfare. The proposed rule:

  • Clarifies living conditions, healthcare, transportation, and slaughter practices to support animal welfare for mammalian livestock species.
  • Establishes poultry indoor and outdoor space requirements and stocking density limits, and clarifies that enclosed porches are not considered outdoor spaces.

Current USDA organic standards already require outdoor access and appropriate living conditions for poultry and livestock that allow animals to express their natural instincts. The majority of organic livestock farmers uphold these standards; however, these regulations have not been consistently enforced and some certifiers have allowed large poultry companies to use narrow, enclosed porches instead of true outdoor access. This inequitable enforcement and interpretation has created an unfair playing field for organic livestock farmers and has undermined consumers’ confidence in the organic label.  OLPS clarifies the standards for animal living conditions to require true outdoor access and room to express natural instincts for all poultry operations.

USDA has proposed two possible implementation periods (5 years vs 15 years) for certified egg-producing operations to meet the outdoor space requirements for laying hens. These stronger standards are long overdue and USDA needs to set a faster timeline for when organic operations need to meet these standards. Take action now to 1) demonstrate widespread industry and consumer support for the proposed rule and 2) tell USDA to set a more aggressive implementation time of 3 years (letting them know that the 15-year implementation plan is NOT viable).

What’s at Stake?

Health and competitiveness of family farms – inconsistent animal welfare standards for organic chickens create an unlevel playing field for organic farmers already providing true outdoor access.

Advancement of organic animal welfare  75% of Americans are either very or somewhat concerned about the treatment of animals by the meat and dairy industry.

Consumer trust and integrity of the organic label – 89% of Americans say the USDA should periodically review and update the organic standards to keep pace with new science and consumer expectations.

Click to read & sign our PETITION to USDA

Organic Farmers will benefit from USDA $300 Million Plan to Support Growth of U.S. Organic Agriculture

August 22, 2022 (Washington, D.C.) — Today, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the details of The Organic Transition Initiative, a $300 million investment to support organic and transitioning farmers, and to address targeted organic market challenges. This program will support farmer priorities that Organic Farmers Association has shared with the USDA program and Congress to better support farmers interested in transitioning to organic and building a more robust organic agriculture infrastructure and market for certified organic farmers.

“We are pleased to see the details of this investment in organic and transitioning organic farmers from the USDA and are excited for the program to be implemented, said Kate Mendenhall, Executive Director.  “There are some important fixes and expanded programs to crop insurance in this program, expanded support for organic producers through NRCS, support for technical assistance and mentoring for farmers interested in transitioning to organic, and support for building better infrastructure.  Organic Farmers Association is pleased to see USDA identify the important role organic farmers play in a growing 60-billion-dollar domestic organic market and in curtailing climate change.”

The USDA Organic Transition Initiative will bring together multiple agencies to better serve organic and transitioning farmers including USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Risk Management Agency (RMA). The plan includes:

$100 million for farmer education support.  The new Transition to Organic Partnership Program aims to ensure that farmers transitioning to organic have the support they need to successfully navigate the 3-year transition, including a full supply chain to domestic consumers who continue to build domestic demand for organic food.  AMS will administer this program through regional partnership networks in six regions across the United States with local organizations serving direct farmer training, education, and outreach activities.

$100 million in direct farmer assistance through NRCS and RMA.  $75 million be administered by Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop a new organic management conservation practice standard and offer financial and technical assistance to producers who implement the practice, with a focus on using existing nutrient management and pest management conservation practice standards in a more targeted way to relate to organic production. This NRCS funding will also be used to increase organic expertise within USDA and to hire organic experts in each NRCS regional technology support center to train NRCS state and field staff to better service organic farmers. The Risk Management Agency (RMA) will use $25 million to create a new Transitional and Organic Grower Assistance (TOGA) Program to provide crop insurance premium subsidies for current and transitioning organic farmers.

$100 million to improve organic supply chains in “pinpointed markets.” This portion of the program will focus on key organic markets where the need for domestic supply is high, or where additional processing and distribution capacity is needed for more robust organic supply chains. Examples of markets seeking support include organic grain and feed; legumes and other edible rotational crops; and livestock and dairy. USDA will seek stakeholder input on these pinpointed initiatives in September of this year and make final decisions about the specific policy initiatives later this year.

Organic Farmers Association will continue to keep farmers informed on how these programs will be implemented to better serve their on-farm needs.  Farmers can start by contacting their local USDA service center to access the expanded NRCS and crop insurance programs.

About the Organic Farmers Association:  The mission of the Organic Farmers Association is to provide a strong and unified national voice for domestic certified organic producers. With the purpose to build and support a farmer-led national organic farmer movement and national policy platform by developing and advocating policies that benefit organic farmers; strengthening and supporting the capacity of organic farmers and farm organizations; and supporting collaboration and leadership among state, regional and national organic farmer organizations.  Learn more at

Media Contact:
Kate Mendenhall, Executive Director
Phone: 202-643-5363
Cell: 585-944-2503






One Year after Danone Dropped 89 Organic Dairy Farmers, Danone Needs to Do More to Help.

August 22, 2022.  A year ago, Danone North America, which owns the organic dairy brand Horizon Organic, notified 89 organic dairy farm families in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York they were terminating their dairy contracts in 12 months’ time and stopping all sourcing of milk in New England.  Danone’s swift regional exit marked the largest simultaneous contract termination organic dairy has ever seen.  The organic dairy market is relatively small with only a few buyers left after years of mergers and acquisitions, so when a major buyer like Horizon leaves, there are few options for farmers.  The news was devastating to these farm families, many of whom have provided organic milk to Horizon Organic for decades and were instrumental in building Horizon’s successful brand.

In the year since Horizon’s announcement, some of the farms have gone out of business, some have been lucky to find another dairy buyer, many have had to make significant, costly upgrades to their farms, and all dairies have suffered from inflation, skyrocketing feed prices, and summer drought.  Danone owes these farmers a future because their healthy, organic milk has helped make Danone one of the largest multinational dairy companies in the world.

In the past year, Northeast organic producer groups representing the affected farmers have asked Danone to support these farmers before they leave the region by 1) giving farmers another 6 months on their contracts, 2) making a significant investment in organic dairy processing infrastructure in the region, and 3) providing farmers with severance pay.  Danone responded in December agreeing to give farmers the extra 6 months on their contracts, a minor severance payment, and to invest in the region.  To date, all farms were offered the contract extension, very few farmers say they have received their severance payments, and Danone still has not made any financial investment in the region’s organic dairy industry.

In contrast, these same Northeast organic producer groups along with other regional stakeholders met with the USDA last fall to identify the responses needed to protect the farms and the rural communities that rely on the thriving and longstanding organic dairy industry.  Agriculture Secretary Vilsack took these recommendations seriously, announcing a $20 million investment in the region in March 2022 to support organic dairy farmers during this crisis.  Surely Danone can match this.

Danone simply has not done enough, and U.S. taxpayers should not be picking up the tab to clean up Danone’s economic mess left behind as they exit the Northeast.  Danone must, at a minimum, match the $20 million taxpayer investment for northeast organic dairy.  Danone’s 2021 year-end sales were €24.3 billion. Danone CEO Antoine de Saint-Affrique stated, “we ended the year on a strong note…We delivered on our commitment to return to profitable growth…with recurring operating margin at 13.7% in 2021. This was enabled by a strong focus on execution and a step-up in productivity, a pro-active approach to pricing and the disciplined implementation of Local First.”[1]  But to farmers in the Northeast, Danone achieved these profits by putting Local Last.

“Farmers in Vermont have experienced an excruciating year, facing mental health strain and huge financial investment on their farms to maintain organic management.  Danone needs to step in to give farmers a fighting chance to keep Vermont organic dairy a viable industry for the next generation,” says Grace Oedel, Executive Director of NOFA-VT.

In Maine, Sarah Alexander, Executive Director of MOFGA comments, “We have lost dairy farms in Maine and fear we could lose more.  There is local motivation to rebuild our local dairy infrastructure, but we need Danone to at least match the taxpayer investment of $20 million that the USDA made in the wake of Danone’s decision to leave the region.  They owe the region’s organic dairy farmers and consumers at least that much.”

“Recently Northeast organic producer groups met with Danone to request the much-needed regional investment the company committed to provide,” says Kate Mendenhall, Organic Farmers Association. “They acknowledged their commitment but then kicked the can down the road.  It’s time they pay up to support a viable future for the 89 farmers they have left behind.”

Bethany Wallis, Executive Director of NOFA-NY adds, “New York has the most farms losing contracts and many are in bad shape with an unclear future.  Danone’s B-Corp social commitment and claims of putting local first needs to be realized in the Northeast.”

“An investment of $20 million to match the USDA contribution would make a huge impact towards repairing the damage Danone has caused in the region,” says Ed Maltby, NODPA.  “The most recent economic downturn coupled with drought conditions have turned a crisis into a near emergency and Danone has the resources to live up to their commitment to invest in the region.  It’s time they embody their social mission and do right by the Northeast rural communities they have impacted, giving these farmers a future.”

Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Inc., Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Organic Farmers Association, together ask Danone North America to invest a minimum of $20 million in the northeast organic dairy industry.  These groups have submitted proposals for how a Danone North America investment can make the greatest impact where it’s needed most.


Media Contact:
Ed Maltby, Executive Director, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; 413-427-7323


OFA testifies to USDA on Animal Welfare Stds

Friday, August 19, 2022
Kate Mendenhall, Executive Director
Organic Farmers Association

RE: USDA NOP Public Listening Session on regulatory requirements for organic livestock and poultry standards via Webinar Testimony
Thank you, National Organic Program for the opportunity to share our initial input on the proposed Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards rule.  My name is Kate Mendenhall, I am the Executive Director of the Organic Farmers Association.  OFA was created to be a strong national voice and advocate for domestic certified organic farmers.  We are farmer-run and controlled.

In 2018 OFA organic farmer members voted to support animal welfare requirements in the OLPP Rule and animal welfare standards have continued to be a top priority.  We are pleased to see it re-enter the public comment arena and hope for swift finalization and implementation.

Organic standards already require livestock have the ability to express natural behaviors and outdoor access. OLPS needs clear standards that close loopholes and provide certifiers and farms with regulations that allow for consistent interpretation, implementation, and enforcement.

Nationally, farmers want organic standards to cover animal welfare so they are not burdened by the need for additional labels or certifications.  In a recent national survey of 150 certified organic farms, we saw high support (over 75%) for addressing additional standards and claims within the organic label.

Implementation:  Our first comment focuses on the implementation timeline.  The majority of organic poultry and livestock farmers already comply with OLPS standards.  A 15-year implementation proposed in Option 2 will cause continued undue economic harm to these farms as they are already burdened by competition from unequal standards and enforcement.  Large-scale poultry operations have been aware of OLPP requirements for more than five years and have had time to plan implementation. Standard depreciation on poultry buildings is 10 years, so the past five years since OLPP plus the additional 5 years of implementation in OLPS is more than sufficient.  Option 1 or a more aggressive implementation timeline should be enacted.  Option 2 is not viable.

For poultry outdoor space requirements:  we feel that poultry should ALWAYS have access to outdoor space (as required in 205.239(a)(1)) with vegetation coverage because this makes them healthier birds and allows them to express their natural instincts.  To maintain this, facilities must have enough pasture for rotation and sufficient rejuvenation of pasture with a specific door size per density or building size that encourages daily outdoor activity.

For poultry indoor space requirements, we feel that stocking density is appropriate for layer and broiler mobile housing but could be increased for other indoor housing.

Mammalian housing seems sufficient except that swine stocking density and outdoor access is left without guidance.  This is an area where OLPS standards are much weaker than other animal welfare standards, and could cause farmers to seek additional certifications.

In preventative healthcare, the standards allow for swine needle teeth clipping and tail docking if undefined alternatives fail.[1]  These practices indicate a management problem and leave ambiguity for certifiers and farmers.  They do not align with other 3rd party animal welfare certification programs, which prohibit or strictly limit both practices.

Overall, clarity of standards is crucial, and leaving vague references without guidance will lead to inconsistent implementation by certifiers and farms.   We encourage you to keep standards high, specific, and implement them quickly.

[1] Tail Docking:
Animal Welfare Approved: Tail docking is prohibited.
Animal Welfare Certified (Whole Foods): prohibited at all levels.
Certified Humane: Tail docking is not permitted except in exceptional circumstances and even then, only the minimum amount of tail necessary may be routine. If the risk of tail-biting exists, other measures should be taken to prevent tail biting such as environmental enrichment or reducing stocking densities. If by veterinary recommendation tail docking should be done, HFAC must be notified before tail-docking is permitted. The method and age of the animals, as well as the justification for the procedure, will be reviewed. Following review, the producer will be notified of the decision from HFAC.
American Humane Certified: Tail docking is permitted to avoid the pain and suffering caused by tail biting. If performed, it must be carried out as early as possible and not later than 7 days of age. Under the direction of the herd veterinarian, the use of pain mitigation should be employed when effective and appropriate options exist. Producers should also be encouraged to use genetic lines less prone to tail biting. American Humane will continue to revisit this issue as pain mitigation and tail-biting intervention strategies develop.

Needle teeth adulteration:
Animal Welfare Approved: Clipping, grinding or filing of the needle teeth of piglets is prohibited.
Animal Welfare Certified (Whole Foods): prohibited at all levels.
Certified Humane: The removal of the points of needle teeth of newborn pigs must not be carried out routinely. Requests for permission to undertake this procedure, together with welfare-related reasons must be submitted in writing to the HFAC staff, who will consider the information and, if necessary may visit the unit. This must include the number of instances of: Facial scarring Udder damage Including the number of pigs included. 1. If the procedure is permitted, the points of the needle teeth of newborn pigs may only be removed as early as possible within the first 4 hours of life. In the case of sick or weak piglets, within 3 days of birth. This procedure must leave an intact smooth surface to the teeth. a) Tooth trimming must only be carried out by a trained and competent person. b) No more than the first third of the tooth may be removed. c) The procedure must leave an intact smooth surface to the teeth. d) Grinding of the sharp point of the teeth is preferable to clipping, as this is less likely to break the tooth or remove too much of the tooth.
American Humane Certified:  Only where necessary to prevent injury to the sow during milking or to other piglets, needle teeth of newborn piglets may be trimmed within the first 24 hours of life, or in the case of weak or sick piglets, within 3 days of birth.  No more than the first third of the tooth may be removed and care must be taken to avoid damage to the gums and splintering of the teeth.