Gillibrand urges USDA secretary to support small and medium organic dairy farmers – Oswego County today
WASHINGTON, DC – US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announces commitment to support small and medium organic dairy farmers facing market loss following news that Horizon Organic, a subsidiary of multinational food conglomerate Danone, is considering terminating contracts dairy with 89 farmers from New York, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire by August 2022, leaving these small farmers without buyers.
The decision to abandon the smaller and more dispersed family farms underscores the long-standing need to address existing gaps in the rules governing the transition from livestock to organic farming and to strengthen the application of the pasture rule, in particular for large scale complex dairies.
Gillibrand is calling on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to close existing loopholes in the rules governing the transition of livestock to be classified as organic and to strengthen the application of the pasture rule, especially for large-scale complex dairies.
The Breeding Origin Rule would help fill the loopholes that put New York’s organic farmers at a financial disadvantage. The gaps have contributed to the oversupply of organic milk in the market by allowing large-scale producers to rapidly increase herd sizes through the continued transition from conventional animals into and out of organic management.
She also called on the Department of Agriculture to use all the tools at its disposal to quickly support the farmers affected by Danone’s decision.
“For years, organic dairy farmers have faced a significant competitive disadvantage compared to large-scale producers, which threatens their livelihoods,” said Senator Gillibrand. “New York is home to more than 3,000 dairy farms and they are an economic cornerstone for many local and rural communities. The USDA must prioritize the origin of livestock rule and fill the loopholes that favor complex large-scale producers and put our small farmers at risk. “
The organic dairy industry is an important economic driver in the North East, but for years organic dairy farmers in the region have suffered a significant competitive disadvantage, shaking consumer confidence in the organic label. The breed origin rule, first launched in 2015, would help fill the gaps that have allowed large producers in some states to rapidly increase herd sizes through the continued transition from conventional animals to and out of organic management. The USDA’s persistent delay in finalizing this rule, which continues to enjoy broad support within the industry, has contributed to the oversupply of organic milk in the market, jeopardizing the integrity of the label. organic and kept farmers in our states at critical financial disadvantage.
The Consolidated Supplementary Appropriations Act of 2020, which was enacted on December 20, 2019, included an explicit directive from Congress asking the USDA to finalize the Breeding Origin Rule by July 17, 2020, a directive still not respected. On July 12, 2021, for the third time in over six years, a comment period on the proposed rule ended, and we urge you to now publish a final rule that reflects the thousands of comments received since 2015, responds to the Organic Food Production Act, and responds to consumer expectations as quickly as possible. This action, combined with increased and consistent enforcement of existing organic regulations like the Grazing Rule, will help restore a level playing field that farmers in our region need.
For the full letter, please click here.
Kirsten Gillibrand press release.