B-Corp Response Dismisses Public Concerns on Danone B Corp Violations

On December 16, 2021 after multiple attempts from the Organic Farmers Association to seek a response from B-Lab complaints against Danone North America submitted on November 8 and November 22, B-Lab responded with a dismissive response.

B-Lab Response to 2 Complaints Against Danone North America

From: Standards Management <standardsmanagement@bcorporation.net>
Date: Thu, Dec 16, 2021 at 8:32 AM
We appreciate your patience in our response, and thanks to you and the petition signatories for playing your role in the accountability mechanisms established as part of the B Corp Certification process.  We take complaints against companies who have achieved B Corp Certification very seriously, and as such it sometimes takes more time than stakeholders desire to provide an appropriate response.

B Lab acknowledges and is deeply sympathetic to the fact that the farmers affected by this decision find themselves in a difficult financial situation that may affect their livelihood and well-being.  Certified B Corps are expected to make decisions with consideration of the impacts on stakeholders in mind.  While these decisions may still nonetheless lead to a potential negative impact on a particular stakeholder group, it is also considered how a company engages in ways to mitigate that negative impact to the extent possible.

Upon reviewing the information available, including the information shared in the petition, and considering the stakeholder concerns raised and the impact on affected farmers and communities, we have determined that Danone North America’s certification is upheld with disclosure of this situation required on its B Corp public profile in order to be transparent with stakeholders around the reasoning for and impacts of its decisions and document the management practices in place so that stakeholders can make their own informed judgment about its impact and the adequacy of measures taken. You may access the information required in their Disclosure Report on their profile here. B Lab will continue to monitor the situation, and if new material information arises related to the decision, a complaint process may be reopened.

For more context on our decision, a company must achieve a minimum verified score of 80 points in the B Impact Assessment in order to become a B Corp, which is designed to help measure and manage a company's positive impact across five key impact areas: governance, workers, community, customers, and the environment. The B Impact Assessment awards credit for specific, positive practices of companies to determine their eligibility for the certification, but does not stipulate or mandate specific individual positive practices.  For example, while the B Impact Assessment acknowledges as best practices, among other things, supporting small scale and local suppliers, maintaining long term relationships with suppliers (average tenure), and purchases from organic producers, these practices are not required components of the certification if, as described above, the company is meeting the overall score of 80 points.

In addition, B Corp Certification also includes a review of potential negative practices that may warrant further action or ineligibility for the certification, and has a complaint process designed to allow stakeholders to raise concerns about existing B Corps who may be violating the spirit of the certification. B Lab investigates material, credible, and specific complaints, with the possible outcomes of any complaint including no further action, additional transparency required, remediation required, or ineligibility for the certification.

B Lab uses feedback from stakeholders like yourself not only to determine whether or not an individual B Corp is in violation of the certification requirements, but also to inform the development of the certification requirements over time. We are currently undertaking a comprehensive review of the B Corp certification performance requirements and have recently gone through an extensive stakeholder consultation process regarding the possibility of additional specific minimum requirements as a component of the certification. There will be ongoing opportunities to submit feedback throughout this review. Further details can be found here.  Thanks again for your interest and engagement, and we encourage you to provide feedback to continue to improve our standards.

Best,

B Lab Standards Management Team


Danone’s Concessions to Northeast Dairy Farmers Is a Small Step Towards Honoring their Social Responsibility Commitment

December 14, 2021.  Danone North America, owner of Horizon Organic, announced yesterday they will meet one of the requests of Northeast organic producer groups resulting from Danone’s decision to move its milk sourcing to the west, leaving 89 organic dairies in the northeast without a market. The requests Danone is honoring, include extending farm contracts to 18 months.  They will also provide a small (6% of the milk check for 6 months or $2 per hundred pounds of milk) transition payment for the affected farm families. Five Northeast organic farm organizations met with Danone in November to discuss the company’s response to the 15,324 petition signatures submitted by nine organic advocacy organizations a few weeks prior. In this meeting, the northeast organizations made specific requests of Danone to repair the damage that leaving the entire Northeast region will have on the farm economy and rural communities.

Danone North America is one of the largest B Corporations and thus has committed to putting people over profits—a commitment its corporate decision to leave the Northeast region decision directly violates.

“We’re glad to get a response to our requests, which is one small step in the right direction. There are still many details to figure out for our producers and lots of work to be done to improve infrastructure and ensure a future for organic dairy in the region.  We look forward to continuing our discussions with Danone to ensure that they meet their commitments and work toward viable long-term solutions for northeast dairies,” stated Sarah Alexander, Executive Director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

On November 18, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Inc., Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, and Organic Farmers Association met with Danone North America executives to outline the petition requests including two options the company could take to rectify the negative impact on the Northeast region and violation of their B Corporation commitment.

The first option presented asked Danone to stay in the Northeast and invest in a processing plant that would make Danone’s supply chains more sustainable and reduce truck miles. The alternative option the group presented was for Danone North America/ Horizon Organic to leave the northeast but financially invest in the region, providing necessary support for the transitions the 89 dairy families are facing. The group asked Danone to give a significant severance pay totaling $15M to all 89 dairy farmers who will either be forced into an early retirement or will be required to make costly changes to their farms to be picked up by another company. This second request also asked Danone to provide a $25M investment towards a new organic dairy processing plant in New England. In Danone’s response, they maintain they will leave the region, but made some concessions on contract extensions and payments.

“We would have preferred for Danone to stay in the region,” says Grace Oedel, Executive Director, NOFA-VT.   “Horizon Organic has been in the Northeast region for over two decades and has a long-term relationship with all the organic farm organizations and our farmer-members. If they are determined to leave, we are glad that they are working towards meeting some of our requests to leave the region in a stronger position.”

In a letter dated December 13, 2021, that Danone sent to the Northeast organic producer groups Danone announced its plans to provide the affected producers with the option to extend their current contract for a total of 18-months, ending on February 28, 2023; provide modest transition payments of an additional amount per hundredweight on the milk purchased from the producers during the last 6 months of their contracts, including to farms that have already exited Danone’s network after receiving the non-renewal notification; provide farm consultants at no charge to the affected farms; and explore co-investment solutions for Northeast dairy infrastructure.

“It’s great for producers to be able to extend their contracts for an extra six months; however, the proposal lacks any substantive financial support to assist with the trauma that this decision has caused. Farmers are being offered myriad services by State governments and non-profits so any farm consultancy will not be helpful. Unfortunately, with Danone’s decision to leave the region, these farms will need to figure out what their future looks like. The contract extension will give them a little bit more time to investigate new paths forward for their families but what they really need is a sound market with a good pay-price to give them a living wage,” said Ed Maltby, Executive Director of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance.

“We hope to hear more specifics about how Danone plans to co-invest in solutions for Northeast dairy infrastructure. The region needs a new organic dairy processing facility to be able to secure a future for Northeast dairy and provide local milk for the Northeast,” says Kate Mendenhall, Organic Farmers Association.  “We estimate that a new facility will cost at least $50 million to support the milk processing for the region as well as supplementary dairy processing needed to balance the local supply. Danone has the fiscal capability to help make that a reality for these farmers.”

The producer groups will continue their work to manage the crisis on the ground and help the affected farm families.  They also plan to continue to work to hold Danone accountable to its B Corporation social responsibility commitments. The group encourages consumers to buy directly from local organic dairy farmers and processors as an antidote to corporate consolidation in the organic sector.  Support from consumers, policy-makers and businesses committed to the northeast will enable investments in local infrastructure, allowing farmers to regain control of their hard work and ensure consumers have access to healthy and locally-produced food.

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PRESS PICKUP:

  • FERN (Food & Environment Reporting Network): https://thefern.org/ag_insider/danones-offer-is-a-small-step-say-northeast-organic-dairy-farmers/
  • Times Union: https://www.timesunion.com/state/article/Organic-dairy-farmers-get-concessions-from-16701967.php
  • Whole Foods Magazine: https://wholefoodsmagazine.com/grocery/news-grocery/danone-agrees-to-help-mitigate-damage-caused-by-pulling-out-of-northeast/
  • Maine Biz: https://www.mainebiz.biz/article/danone-will-give-northeast-organic-dairy-farmers-financial-help-more-time-on-contracts
  • 7 Days VT: https://www.sevendaysvt.com/OffMessage/archives/2021/12/14/organic-dairy-farmers-win-a-six-month-reprieve-from-horizon
  • Agri-Pulse: https://www.agri-pulse.com/articles/16970-daybreak-dec-16-biden-administration-promises-coordinated-action-on-trucker-shortage+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

7,739 Organic Farmers and Consumers File Complaint against B-Lab Calling for Action on Danone North America’s B Corp Certification

November 23, 2021  Yesterday, 7,739 organic consumers and farmers submitted a complaint to B Lab (administer of the B Corporation corporate social value certification program) against Danone North America, owner of Horizon Organic.  The complaint outlines violations the company has made against the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence.  These farmers and consumers are members and supporters of the eleven organizations that submitted a complaint earlier this month against Danone N.A./Horizon.  This is the first batch of signatures that will be submitted to B Lab.  Supporters can still sign on to the complaint here.

In August 2021, Danone North America notified all their contracted organic dairy farm families totaling 89 families in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and a portion of New York they would be ending their contracts and pulling out of the Northeast U.S. supply chain to redirect their supply chain around their processing facility near Buffalo, NY.  Many of the affected farm families have provided organic milk to Horizon Organic for decades and have been instrumental in building that successful brand with grass-fed family-farm organic milk.

“The family farmers losing their contracts with Horizon Organic are struggling to figure out how to save their farms and homes in a time when there are few other organic dairy market opportunities, and we are still in a pandemic.  Nationally we have never experienced such a large number of contracts ended at once from a single organic dairy company, “says Nicole Dehne, Certification Director for Vermont Organic Farmers.  “In Vermont, organic dairy is 28% of our state’s dairy economy and these farmers are incredibly important to our food supply as well as our rural economies. The organic community asks B Lab to take action.”

The northeast region embodies the family-scale, grass-based, organic dairy farms, organic consumers expect to be supplying their milk.  “NOFA-NY has worked with Horizon Organic for decades and many of our farmers have supplied Horizon milk for the duration of that time.  We want Danone to value the whole northeast region, invest here, and create a future for northeast organic dairy farmers.  New York has one of the largest consumer markets, and you can see by the number of people who care about this, local organic dairy is important to northeast consumers,” says Katie Baildon, Policy Director, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York.

B Corporations have made a commitment to work towards reducing inequality, lowering poverty, creating a healthier environment, building stronger communities, and creating more high-quality jobs with dignity and purpose. The B Corp label tells consumers that the company has created a positive impact for their employees, communities, and the environment.  Danone North America’s action in the Northeast goes against all of these principles, and B Lab must take action, or the B Corp label is in jeopardy of losing its integrity.  Regional producer groups representing the affected farmers met with Danone North America last week to ask them to stay in the Northeast and invest in the region’s organic dairy farm families.  We hope B Lab will help them make the right decision.

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Media Contact: 

Ed Maltby, Executive Director, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance
emaltby@comcast.net; 413-427-7323


11 Organic Organizations submit complaint to B Lab against Danone North America

November 8, 2021

Dan Osusky
Director of Standards, B Lab
15 Waterloo Avenue
Berwyn, PA 19312

RE:  Complaint against Danone North America

Dear Mr. Osusky,

Eleven organic farm and consumer organizations, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Inc., Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Maine Organic Milk Producers, Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Organic Farmers Association, Organic Consumers Association, Cornucopia Institute, and Real Organic Project, submit a complaint against Danone North America (Danone N.A.), owner of Horizon Organic regarding a violation of the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence. We request that the B Lab conduct a full investigation on this matter.

As you know, all B Corporations must commit to incorporating the following declarations into their business practices:

  • That we must be the change we seek in the world.
  • That all business ought to be conducted as if people and place mattered.
  • That, through their products, practices, and profits, businesses should aspire to do no harm and benefit all.
  • To do so requires that we act with the understanding that we are each dependent upon another and thus responsible for each other and future generations.

Complaint Details
In August 2021, Danone N.A.’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Horizon Organic, ended its contracts with 89 Northeast organic dairy farms.  These family farms had maintained their portion of their supply contract for Danone N.A., yet Danone N.A. ended these contracts simply because the farms no longer fit their “manufacturing footprint.” This massive exit by Danone N.A. from the northeast region has severely hurt these farm families and the region’s rural economy and is a direct violation of the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence.   Danone N.A.’s conduct must be investigated, and we recommend removing their B Corp status.  This corporate behavior diminishes consumer confidence in the value of the B Corp label.  If you do not take effective action, consumers will lose trust in your value-based label.  Recently nine organic organizations submitted a petition with over 15,000 signatures to Danone N.A. calling Danone N.A. to reverse their decision. The public is watching this egregious corporate action and highlighting the incongruity with B Corp claims.

Horizon Organic has supported the growth and viability of small, organic family farms in the Northeast region for over two decades. These family farms have helped build the reputation and value of the Horizon Organic brand and have contributed substantially to the bottom line of both Horizon and Danone N.A. The 89 farm families’ dairy farms are thriving independent businesses that make substantial contributions to their rural economies and communities.  Horizon Organic’s support of family farms, like the 89 in the Northeast, is part of the business model that put Danone N.A. in a position to qualify as a B Corporation.  B Corp meticulously outlines three areas of social responsibility in its mission statement that B Corporations must embody.  These include corporate responsibility to their workers, the communities they serve, and the greater environment. Danone N.A., by abruptly ending contracts with 89 family farmers, has directly violated each of these responsibilities and we implore B Lab to investigate and take appropriate action.

Profits over People
Danone N.A.'s decision to abruptly sever contracts with an entire U.S. region affecting 89 family farms was one based solely on maximizing profits, regardless of the devastating consequences for their suppliers’ families and rural communities. This action ignores the decades of corporate profits gained from the work of these independent dairy farms and the social reputational benefits they helped the company earn from consumers.  This abrupt action directly violates a commitment to conducting their business as if people and place mattered.  It also violates Danone N.A.’s corporate declaration to aspire to do no harm and benefit all through their products, practices, and profits.

Danone N.A.’s 2020 corporate revenue of $27 billion gives them the flexibility to have planned for a regional exit that treated the 89 dairy farm families as if they and their communities mattered.  They have instead chosen to cause direct harm to these farmers and their rural communities in favor of Danone N.A.’s corporate profits.   Choosing not to invest in their family farmers is in violation of their B Corp commitment of “balancing profit with purpose” and “using business as a force for good.”

Profits over Community
Having thriving organic farms keeps rural communities vibrant and supports healthier communities.  Farmers rely on stable relationships with their buyers to be able to make decisions for their farm business, make financial projections for farm investment and modernizations, and pay off farm debt.  Danone N.A. misrepresented their commitment to their stakeholder organic farm suppliers; their decision to abruptly end contracts with all 89 farms from a whole region demonstrates that they are not committed to an interdependency with their stakeholders and do not take responsibility for the future generations of their organic dairy farm families.

This action has affected and will continue to impact the communities that Danone N.A. had supported through decades of committed business partnerships.  When organic dairy farms spend their profits locally, it benefits the entire community. For every dollar a dairy farm spends locally, about $2.50 in wages and other business transactions are contributed to the local, rural economy. Independent family dairy farms also create jobs off the farm in related sectors like sales and service, animal health, nutrition, ag input suppliers, lenders, transportation, accountants, and agronomists.  Research has demonstrated that one New York state cow is able to spread an extra $15,000 in economic revenue. Removing 89 family farms from rural communities in the Northeast in one fell swoop will have a drastic impact on the economic viability of these rural communities and the urban communities they serve.

Profits over the Environment
Organic dairy farms are important to the Northeast environment and to climate change mitigation.  These farms conserve open spaces, establish wildlife habitats, filter clean water, and conduct effective long-term carbon sequestration, and return nutrients to the soil.  Organic farmers exceed dairy farm environmental regulations, managing their pasture, manure, soil, water, and cows to be a part of a healthy agroecological system. Danone N.A.’s exit from the northeast is leaving these 89 organic dairy farms without a market, families are likely to be forced to either sell the farm or sell into the conventional dairy market--losing many of the environmental standards maintained under organic certification.

B Lab Must Follow Through on the Credibility of their Label
We understand that Alexa Harrison, senior public relations manager at B Lab U.S. & Canada, emailed Organic Insider on 10/26/2021 with the following message:

"B Lab (the entity that oversees the B Corp certification) has reviewed this situation internally and found that Danone North America is not in violation of the B Corp standards. B Lab’s standards were created to provide a framework for continual improvement and evaluation of positive impact and negative risk of a company’s social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability throughout all aspects of their business. Our certification standards do not restrict a B Corp’s supply chain selections e.g. requiring a certain type of product from a certain type of supplier. Danone North America has been and continues to be a strong advocate for the B Corp movement, and while these decisions could impact a company’s score, it does not affect certification status."

We strongly encourage you to re-evaluate this decision with the evidence before you.  As consumers, Harrison’s response provides little confidence in the value of B Corp and its ability to ensure that its corporations stay committed to the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence.

B Corp claims that corporations operate in a framework of continual improvement of (social and environmental performance, transparency, accountability, etc.), which is why B Corp must make decisions on their members’ impacts on the supply chain, and violations of its declaration of interdependence.  When a B Corporation is clearly not improving but takes an action that harms those it has committed to treating with respect, B Lab must investigate and address those violations.  B Corp enforcement must be meaningful and set an example to other B Corporations of the seriousness of the social commitments the label embodies.

We call on B Lab to investigate and act on this decision by Danone N.A./Horizon Organic and send the message that B Corporation's status is credible and held accountable when a company acts in direct opposition to its B Corp commitments.  We encourage you to put Danone N.A.'s B Corporation status on probation until they reinstate the contracts of these 89 farms and invest in these communities that contributed to the success and social claims of Danone N.A.  If they will not do that, we ask that you revoke their B Corporation status.

Sincerely,

Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Inc.,
Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont,
Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire,
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association,
Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance,
Maine Organic Milk Producers,
Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance,
Organic Farmers Association,
Organic Consumers Association,
Cornucopia Institute,
Real Organic Project

 

SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION

 


Organic Organizations and Consumers Call on Danone North America to Stand by Northeast Organic Dairy Farm Families

 

 

October 26, 2021  Today, nine organic organizations representing organic farmers and consumers delivered two petitions with 15,234 signatures asking Danone North America, owner of Horizon Organic, not to leave the northeast and leave 89 dairy farm families without a market (a national petition includes 13,020 signatures and a state-focused Maine petition includes 2,214 signatures).

In August 2021, Danone North America notified 89 organic dairy farm families that they would be ending their contracts and pulling out of the Northeast U.S. market.  They have transitioned all their milk procurement to farther west in favor of larger farms.  Many of the affected farm families have been providing organic milk to Horizon Organic (owned by Danone N.A.) for decades and have been instrumental in building that successful brand with grass-fed family-farm organic milk.

While Danone, North America has invested in new processing facilities along the eastern U.S. for plant-based milk, they have failed to invest in a dairy processing facility that would continue to serve the large Northeast organic consumer market with local organic milk.  While they claim they will be saving transportation miles by procuring milk closer to their western NY dairy processing plant, they will be spending more miles in trucking cartons of milk to the large Northeast consumer markets.

Organic groups have requested a meeting with Danone North America to ask them to stay in the Northeast and invest in the region’s organic dairy farm families who are making great contributions to the local environment and local economies by running grass-based organic dairy farms.

“We have already lost many northeast family organic dairies over the past five years due to pressure from large organic dairies taking advantage of a regulatory loophole.  This exit by Horizon Organic mimics what we see happening nationwide and leaves our rural communities without a local source of organic milk.  Danone North America as a B-Corp should hold a stronger commitment to the region and the communities that provide their milk,” says Ed Maltby, Executive Director of Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA).  “We hope to meet with them and discuss opportunities to keep them in the Northeast region.”

“Consumers are looking for organic milk from local organic farms that feed the local economy and protect the community’s soil, air, and water,” says Melody Morrell, Executive Director of Cornucopia Institute. “B Corp companies have a social contract with their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. We believe Danone/Horizon must reconsider this mass exit from the region.”

Northeast Organic Farmers Association of Vermont, Northeast Organic Farmers Association of New York, Inc., Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Organic Farmers Association, National Organic Coalition, Cornucopia Institute, Real Organic Project together ask Danone North America to meet with the northeast groups to find a better solution for the affected 89 farm families.

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Media Contact:

Ed Maltby, Executive Director, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance

emaltby@comcast.net; 413-427-7323


OFA Testifies to NOSB: Fall 2021

 

 

 

Click here for OFA Submitted Written Comments:  Fall 2021

Below: OFA Oral Comments to the NOSB via Webinar Testimony:  Fall 2021

October 13, 2021

Kate Mendenhall, Executive Director

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 was created to be a strong national voice and advocate for domestic certified organic farmers.  Our policy positions are created through a nationwide grassroots process that invites the participation of all domestic certified organic farmers and then our certified organic farm members vote on these policies.  We operate a strict one farm- one vote policy so all farmers have an equal seat at the table.

Today I will address three areas:  Public Comment Process, Ammonia Extract, and Sodium Nitrate.

Public Comment Process:   We have found a more diverse group of organic farmers able to participate in the oral testimony virtual format and encourage you to continue to offer this platform.  Without both the webinar and in-person oral comment opportunities it seems there is less time for comments, so we encourage you to keep this a priority of the NOSB process.  We also encourage you to adjust the rules for how comment slots are assigned to make sure that organic farmers have some priority to testify to the board.  Many of the registrations occur during high-farm production cycles and the oral comment slots often fill up weeks before the deadline- often with multiple people from the same company or organization.

Ammonia Extract Prohibition:  OFA recently adopted a policy position, which states:

“OFA supports prohibiting the use of ammonia extract for use in organic production because such use is incompatible with OFPA and good soil health practices.”

Therefore, we support the first two National List Motions: to add Stripped Ammonia and Concentrated Ammonia at §205.602, non-synthetic substances prohibited for use in organic crop production.

Sodium Nitrate:  We have testified before on OFA’s  policy position, which states:

Consistent with NOSB’s April 2011 recommendation, the Organic Farmers Association SUPPORTS re-listing Sodium Nitrate on 7 CFR 205.602 without annotation. This rulemaking action would make sodium nitrate prohibited in organic farming and eliminate the use of this soluble, plant-available fertilizer, which circumvents natural nutrient cycling in organic soil management.

Therefore, we support the Subcommittee’s motion to reinstate the listing of sodium nitrate at 7 CFR 205.602(g) - prohibited nonsynthetic. But wish it was more restrictive.

When we have discussed both Ammonia extract and sodium nitrate with our farmer-policy committee,  the larger topic about soluble nitrogen comes up.  OFA encourages the NOSB to review soluble nitrogen as a whole rather than addressing individual nitrogen products or forms.  Cultural management like preventative practices that limit the need for external and off-farm inputs for building a healthy agroecology system is a critical piece of building organic matter and good soil health.    Organic is a solution for climate change because we have demonstrated standards that celebrate and demand good soil health as an essential component of organic certification for decades.  We must protect that for the future of organic.

 

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October 13, 2021

Patty Lovera, Policy Director

My name is Patty Lovera and I am the policy director for the Organic Farmers Association (OFA). We appreciate the opportunity to provide comments and the time and energy Board members devote to this process.

Oversight Improvements to Deter Fraud and Improve Traceability

We are happy the Board is discussing oversight improvements to deter fraud and improve traceability. Dealing with fraud has been a top priority for OFA members since the organization’s founding. We provided more detailed comments in writing, but wanted to offer some general concerns:

  1. It will be important to ensure that any new traceability requirements do not create additional burdens on farmers who already do a lot of recordkeeping to be certified organic. Any new traceability requirements must ensure that farms are not required to use specific software, technology or other services beyond certification in order to comply, and paper-based systems must be allowed.
  2. The evaluation of new requirements should assess the likelihood that buyers will impose certain traceability practices on their suppliers.
  3. The NOP should also consider if technical assistance will be needed for farms or certifiers to comply with any new traceability requirements.

In response to Question 6 in the discussion document -- Are there additional areas that need to be considered for improvement to prevent fraud or react to fraud?:

We would say emphatically, Yes.

First, we need the Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule finalized as soon as possible.

NOP also needs to continue to coordinate with other USDA agencies as well as U.S. Customs and Border Protection to leverage other agencies’ inspection resources at ports of entry.

NOP should develop investigative procedures that are triggered by import data, such as automatically starting an investigation when there is a significant surge in imports for a specific product category.

NOP should collaborate on enforcement (not just standards setting) with our trading partners. If a country we have a trade relationship with has taken enforcement action against a certifier or certified operation, that information should be shared as part of the trade relationship.

In response to question 7 --Should the industry require the registration of land 36 months before certification?:

Yes. In addition to allowing better audits that can detect fraud, this type of data could help current organic farms make better decisions about how to participate in their markets. We had additional thoughts in our written comments about the need for some flexibility in how this data is collected and presented to avoid creating a burden for farmers.

Proposal: Kasugamycin - petitioned

OFA urges the Board not to allow kasugamycin for plant disease control. Using antibiotics in organic production is contrary to consumer expectations, as organic marketing commonly states that no antibiotics are allowed in organic production. Antibiotic resistance poses a serious threat to human health, and use of antibiotics in agriculture contributes to that threat.

 

 


Petition to Danone/Horizon to stand with NE organic dairies

Danone (owner of Horizon Organic Milk), the global leader in over 20 brands of fresh dairy products and a $10.3B company, just abruptly ended contracts with 89 Northeast organic dairy farm families.  That includes ALL their dairy farmers in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and almost 50 from New York state.  These farmers have no other market options.  As a certified “B Corp” Danone is required to use its business as a force for good, but this action from Danone is disgraceful and will hurt Northeast farm families and their communities.

Danone/Horizon claims they cannot afford to continue supporting the family-owned organic dairy farms that have helped build the Horizon Organic brand for decades due to logistics and trucking issues. But there are other issues in the organic marketplace that are a part of this story – especially USDA’s failure to update and enforce key organic standards for dairy farms such as the enforcement of the pasture standards and long overdue updates to the Origin of Livestock rule to stop the continuous cycling of animals in and out of organic on large operations.

Sign your name to this petition to demand that Danone/Horizon do the right thing and reinstate these farmers who are producing organic milk the right way. Treat family farmers with RESPECT!

SIGN THE PETITION!

Thank you for your support of organic farmers.  We are stronger together!  Please help spread the word.

More Background Information

Partner articles on the issue


Organic Grain Buyer Files for Bankruptcy – Resources for Organic Farmers

On July 8th, Pipeline Foods filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. According to the company’s website, it contracted with 1,461 growers in 2019 (most recent number available).

If you are an organic grain producer who sold grain to Pipeline Foods and have not been paid, there are a couple of things you can do right now:

  1. Contact the state department of agriculture for the state where your grain was delivered. Many states have grain dealer licensing programs that administer funds or insurance programs to cover obligations from grain dealer defaults. Each state has its own program, so the details vary on how to apply and how much of the loss will be covered. The websites for programs in many of the states where Pipeline bought grain are listed below.
  1. If you delivered grain in a different state than where your farm is located, you may also want to contact your state department of agriculture to see if there are programs that cover this loss. Most states license the grain dealer, so they cover transactions at grain facilities in the state (where the grain is delivered, not where it is grown.) But it is also worth checking with your home state in case they have a program that could help. Some state programs may eventually hold information sessions about what options farmers have in this situation, so keep an eye on the websites for your state grain program.
  1. Consider seeking legal help if you made deliveries shortly before the bankruptcy filing, or before making any new deliveries to Pipeline (several states have suspended the company’s grain dealer license.) There may be steps you can take to impact your standing as a creditor in the bankruptcy process, depending on the terms of your agreement.

OFA will continue to look for other options for organic farmers who are impacted by this bankruptcy and will share more information as we find it. But contacting a state grain program and getting your own legal advice are short-term steps you should take as soon as possible.

State Programs

Illinois Grain Insurance Fund
https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/agr/Consumers/GrainWarehouses/Pages/Illinois-Grain-Code.aspx#h3

Indiana Grain Indemnity Program
https://www.in.gov/isda/divisions/indiana-grain-buyers/grain-indemnity-corporation/

Iowa Grain Depositors and Sellers Indemnity Fund
https://iowaagriculture.gov/news/notice-of-warehouse-grain-dealer-bankruptcy-07132021

If you have a contract with Pipeline Foods for delivery in Iowa on a date after July 8, 2021 (the date the company filed for bankruptcy), you can now be relieved of any liability or claim by Pipeline to fulfill this contract.

Here is what you need to do:

–  Go to the Pipeline Foods Bankruptcy webpage and fill out the Undelivered Grain Sellers – Non-Delivery Notice Submission Form https://cases.stretto.com/PipelineFoods/content/1213-undelivered-grain-sellers/

–  After you make this notification, you can sell the contracted grain or beans elsewhere. Keep records of where you sold the grain and for how much.

This procedure covers:

  1. Iowa farmers who would truck their grain under a Pipeline contract to a facility in Iowa;
  2. Farmers in states other than Iowa who would truck grain under a Pipeline contract to a facility in Iowa; and
  3. Farmers in Iowa for whom Pipeline (rather than the farmer) would arrange the trucking to pick up grain/beans at an Iowa farm but that would be delivered to a facility in a state other than Iowa.

It does not cover contracts under which the grain/beans would be delivered to a facility in a state other than Iowa.

Michigan Farm Produce Insurance Fund
https://www.michigan.gov/mdard/0,4610,7-125-1569_16993_16996---,00.html

If you have a contract with Pipeline Foods for delivery in Michigan on a date after July 8, 2021 (the date the company filed for bankruptcy), you can now be relieved of any liability or claim by Pipeline to fulfill this contract.

Here is what you need to do:

–  Go to the Pipeline Foods Bankruptcy webpage and fill out the Undelivered Grain Sellers – Non-Delivery Notice Submission Form https://cases.stretto.com/PipelineFoods/content/1213-undelivered-grain-sellers/

–  After you make this notification, you can sell the contracted grain or beans elsewhere. Keep records of where you sold the grain and for how much.

This procedure covers:

  1. Michigan farmers who would truck their grain under a Pipeline contract to a facility in Michigan
  2. Farmers in states other thanMichigan who would truck grain under a Pipeline contract to a facility in Michigan; and
  3. Farmers in Michigan for whom Pipeline (rather than the farmer) would arrange the trucking to pick up grain/beans at a Michigan farm but that would be delivered to a facility in a state other than Michigan.

It does not cover contracts under which the grain/beans would be delivered to a facility in a state other than Michigan.

Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Grain Licensing Program
https://www.mda.state.mn.us/statement-minnesota-department-agriculture-regarding-pipeline-foods-llcs-chapter-11-bankruptcy
****Minnesota Grain Program held a (virtual) public information session about this bankruptcy on Weds. July 21 at 1-3 pm central. Click here to watch a recording of the session.

If you have a contract with Pipeline Foods for delivery on a date after July 8, 2021 (the date the company filed for bankruptcy), you can now be relieved of any liability or claim by Pipeline to fulfill this contract.

Here is what you need to do:

-  Go to the Pipeline Foods Bankruptcy webpage and fill out the Undelivered Grain Sellers – Non-Delivery Notice Submission Form at https://cases.stretto.com/PipelineFoods/content/1213-undelivered-grain-sellers/

-  After you make this notification, you can sell the contracted grain or beans elsewhere.

This procedure covers:

  1. Minnesota farmers who would truck their grain under a Pipeline contract to a facility in Minnesota;
  2. Farmers in states other than Minnesota who would truck grain under a Pipeline contract to a facility in Minnesota; and
  3. Farmers in Minnesota for whom Pipeline (rather than the farmer) would arrange the trucking to pick up grain/beans at a Minnesota farm but that would be delivered to a facility in a state other than Minnesota.

It does not cover contracts under which the grain/beans would be delivered to a facility in a state other than Minnesota.

Missouri Grain Regulatory Services Program
https://agriculture.mo.gov/grains/?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=
Please contact the Missouri Department of Agriculture if you or your business have any unsettled obligations with Pipeline Foods, LLC. You may call Grain Regulatory Services Program Manager Eric Berwanger at (573) 751-4112.

North Dakota Grain and Livestock Licensing Division
https://www.nd.gov/ndda/program/grain-inspection
ND Grain Complaint Form: https://www.nd.gov/ndda/submit-grain-complaint

Ohio Grain, Feed & Seed Program
https://agri.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/oda/divisions/plant-health/grain-warehouse-feed-and-seed/grain-feed-seed     (choose Grain Indemnity Fund button)
Claim forms: https://agri.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/oda/divisions/plant-health/forms/plnt_4203-006

South Dakota Public Utilities Commission Grain Warehouse Program
https://puc.sd.gov/warehouse/
Producers who are not being paid in a timely manner are encouraged to report problems to the PUC by calling 1-800-332-1782 or sending an email to puc@state.sd.us

Wisconsin Agricultural Producer Security Default Claims
https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/Programs_Services/AgProdSecDefaultClaims.aspx