Posted March 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 in
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
"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.