2, 2005, Dennis Pollock, The Fresno Bee via CropChoice:
A Wisconsin advocacy group has filed a complaint with
the U.S. Department of Agriculture saying that the Case
Vander Eyk Dairy near Pixley has violated national organic
rules that require pasture feeding of cows.
Case Vander Eyk Jr. would not comment about the complaint
lodged by the Cornucopia Institute, a nonprofit farm
policy research group based in Cornucopia, Wis.
USDA spokeswoman Joan Schaffer said the complaint is
still being reviewed. She also pointed out that a livestock
committee of the National Organic Standards Board has
developed "a clarification" of organic dairy
requirements that will be considered when the board
meets this week.
The committee is seeking to clarify such terms as "pasture"
and "temporary confinement," those periods
when animals may not be able to graze on pasture land.
Federal rules state cows can be fed certified organic
feed at times, but a significant portion of what they
eat must be from pasture land.
Mark Kastel, senior farm policy analyst with the Cornucopia
Institute, said the board's actions are aimed at developing
guidelines for those who certify dairies as organic.
He believes the standards have been clear and enforcement
has been lax.
The Vander Eyk operation is one of three huge organic
dairy operations that the institute has targeted on
allegations of not meeting pasture requirements. The
institute also has complained about a 4,000-head Idaho
farm and about the Aurora dairy, a 5,700-head operation
All three supply milk for Dean/Horizon, which Kastel
terms "the nation's largest organic dairy marketer."
Kastel said the Vander Eyk dairy is "a split operation"
that includes about 7,000 conventional cows and about
3,000 organic animals.
"As demand for organic milk has skyrocketed, investors
have built large industrial farms mimicking what has
become the standard paradigm in the conventional dairy
industry," Kastel said. "It is our contention
that you cannot milk 2,000 to 6,000 cows and offer them
true access to pasture as required by the Organic Foods
Production Act of 1990."
Unlike beef cattle, Kastel said, dairy cows must be
pulled together two or three times a day for milking.
"That would mean walking miles a day" over
pasture land, he said.
Kastel contends that smaller organic farms that operate
by national guidelines are placed at a disadvantage.
"Real organic farms have made great financial
investments in converting to pasture-based production,
while it appears that these large corporate-dominated
enterprises are happy just to pay lip service to required
organic ethics," he said.
The institute says Vander Eyk has access to 10,000
acres of pasture, but that is located near Ducor, miles
from the dairy's main operation. "The dairy reportedly
trucks cows to the Ducor pasture, but the Cornucopia
Institute contends that this approach is not used with
lactating animals [those being milked]."
Last month, Case Vander Eyk Dairy paid $360,000 to
settle a lawsuit brought by milkers who said they worked
unpaid overtime, were not given rest and meal breaks
and were not reimbursed for equipment that they purchased
for use in their jobs.