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Corporate Organics Circles the Wagons: Lies, Damn Lies, and Public Relations

  • Corporate Organics Circles the Wagons
    By Mark A. Kastel
    The Cornucopia Institute, Sept. 19, 2007
    Straight to the Source

Here are the facts:

1. The founders of Horizon Organics (now owned by Dean Foods) and Aurora Organic Dairy have converted a number of feedlot dairies in semi-arid western states (factory-farms), milking thousands of cows, to "organic" production.

2. Since the organic community started challenging their propriety, the number of these industrial-scale farms has grown from one (the original Horizon feedlot dairy in Idaho to approximately 15 today (the majority of which are also certified by QAI). Now a surplus of milk, created almost exclusively by these questionable facilities, is driving down wholesale prices paid to family farmers and endangering their survival, as well as blocking new family-farm conversions to organic dairying.

3. The Cornucopia Institute has filed a series of legal complaints against industrial farms owned by and/or supplying Aurora and Horizon.  The first of these giant farms (milking 10,000 cows), certified by QAI and historically delivering milk to Horizon and Stremicks, was decertified earlier this year.

4. The second target of our complaints, Aurora, was found by the USDA to be in "willful" violation of 14 different points of the organic standards (including illegally confining their cattle and bringing in conventional cattle).  In the most serious of the 14 breaches, the USDA found that they had willfully sold milk since December 2003 that was labeled as organic but did not qualify to be labeled as organic.  This is a gross violation of consumers' trust, and the current surpluses created have put family farmers' livelihoods in jeopardy.

At the bottom of this message, please find the latest damage-control spin from both QAI and Aurora.

The factory-farm production associated with Aurora, Horizon, and Stremicks is the biggest scandal in the history of the organic industry.  What we are now experiencing is a desperate damage-control public relations campaign by the companies involved.

Please let us know if you have any questions.

Mark A. Kastel
Codirector and Senior Farm Policy Analyst
The Cornucopia Institute
Cornucopia, Wisconsin

----------------------
Lies, Damn Lies, and Public Relations

The 20th century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.

Activists Response to Quality Assurance International press release of 18 September:

QAI: While QAI does certify Aurora Organic Dairy's (AOD's) Dublin, Texas, farm, the consent agreement does not mention noncompliances at the Dublin, Texas, facility or improper certification decisions made by QAI.

Cornucopia: This statement is patently false. The consent agreement requires that "AOD [Aurora Organic Dairy] shall file an amended OSP [Organic Systems Plan] for its Dublin, Texas, facility ... that will provide that all animals ... have completed the transition to organic and are certified by an accredited certifying agent."

This obviously indicates that there were animals that did not qualify as organic on the Dublin facility, just as on Aurora's Platteville, Colorado, dairy. Since the USDA is requiring that Aurora amend their Organic Systems Plan, their current one, approved by QAI, is obviously inconsistent with federal regulatory law.

It should be noted that the USDA's Notification of Proposed Revocation, dated March 7, 2007, stated in item #2 that Aurora committed "willful violations" at its Dublin facility. Nowhere in the USDA documents does it state that Aurora lied to or deceived QAI or the State of Colorado's certification programs.  The certifiers approved the protocols at these dairies that were willfully violating the law.

 QAI: By law, QAI is required to accept all certification decisions of other accredited certifiers.

Cornucopia: This is true.  However, this does not absolve a certifier, when there is reason to question the propriety of an operation certified by another agent, from employing the due diligence necessary to assure that the product is certified in compliance with the Organic Foods Production Act and its regulations. Certifiers have stepped in to question improprieties on products or commodities certified by others on a number of occasions in the past.

The notice of revocation (item #8) found that AOD was committing "willful violations" from Dec. 5, 2003, to present, by selling, labeling, and representing milk as organically produced, when such milk was not organic.

This is by far the most serious of the 14 violations confirmed by the USDA. Aurora was defrauding consumers.  QAI had the ultimate responsibility for all the "organic" milk and butter that was manufactured at Aurora's Colorado processing plant.

QAI is the largest corporate certifier in the country.  One has to ask whether they could be this incompetent or whether they were complicit in allowing illegal practices to occur for years.

It should also be emphasized that QAI certifies the majority of all industrial-scale dairies operating in the United States, including Horizon's Idaho operation (managing 8000 head of cattle, with an active USDA investigation taking place) and the Vander Eyk dairy in California, which was recently decertified.

QAI: QAI stands by its certification decisions, and nothing in the Consent Agreement even remotely questions those decisions.

 Cornucopia: Do staff at QAI think that we just fell off a turnip truck?

We stand by the allegations we've made in our recent formal legal complaint filed with the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service compliance staff.  We trust that the USDA will fully investigate these charges and take all appropriate enforcement action.

The full text of Aurora's response to Cornucopia's legal complaint appears at the end of this message.

------------------
Response to Aurora's news release of 12 September (letter from Mark Retzloff, President):

Retzloff: I've devoted nearly four decades of my life to building natural and organic food businessesS

Cornucopia: Shame on you Mr. Retzloff.  The USDA has concluded that you and your colleagues "willfully" violated the laws that govern organic agriculture and marketing.  You are not an amateur.  You knew exactly what you were doing.

My thesaurus cites the following alternatives for willful: deliberate, intentional, knowingly, on purpose.

 Retzloff: I have created financial gain for investors who put their money at risk .

Cornucopia: Yes, you have made millions for yourself and other investors. And yes, you have created jobs.  But at what cost?  Factory-farms operated by Horizon, which you also founded, and Aurora have flooded the market with enough extra "organic" milk that processors are now cutting the price to family farmers and endangering their livelihoods.  Organic consumers feel that part of the premium they are paying goes to support family farmers, not enrich investors like yourself.

 Retzloff:  The recently completed USDA review of our operations was prompted in part by complaints made by an advocacy group whose self-described goal is to protect the interests of family-owned dairy farms.

Cornucopia:  You got this one right Mr. Retzloff!  One of the prime reasons that consumers feel good about paying a premium price for organic food is they think they are supporting ecological, family-scale farmers.  They are not just buying the organic products; they are buying the story behind the organic label.  Your factory-farms undermine the mutually respectful relationship farmers have with consumers.

Retzloff: This group accepts sponsorship money from certain organic producers who compete with our company. Readers can judge for themselves whether attacks on us are motivated purely by a concern for the integrity of the organic label or by simple competitive interests.

Cornucopia: You are right again -  for photographs of your Kersey dairym see our website. The photographs show no cows out on pasture on days with perfect grazing conditions.  Copies of our legal complaints can also be found on the web site.

Photographs, satellite imagery, and testimony from industry professionals who have toured your dairy have led us to file an additional formal legal complaint against your "state-of-the-art" milking facility in Kersey.  I'm sure you are just as interested in the outcome of the new USDA investigation as we are.

Retzloff: Some observers, whose glasses of organic milk are always half empty, have bemoaned the fact that what began as the organic food movement has evolved into a large, growing business.

Cornucopia: I'm sorry to disappoint you.  We don't figure your organic glass of milk is half full.  We feel it is empty!  The USDA concluded that you were marketing something other than organic milk.  You have misled consumers.

The controversy here is not about corporate size ethics.  Other major corporations and cooperatives that entered organic dairy marketing, like Stonyfield, Organic Valley, and Hood have built their businesses by exclusively buying milk from family farmers.  And none of these large businesses have been accused of cheating.

Retzloff: Our company is on record as supporting a stricter USDA pasture standard requiring that all cows graze on pasture for at least 120 days during the growing season.

Cornucopia: Although you have supported the 120 day minimum you have fought like hell against the consensus championed by the dairy producer groups (FOOD Farmers) and supported by The Cornucopia Institute, National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture, the Organic Consumers Association, and many other farm, consumer, environmental, and animal welfare organizations.  And you and your lobbyists continue to fight against meaningful legislation that would include a minimum amount of feed intake from pasture, preventing you from putting cows out for five minutes a day and calling it "grazing."

Retzloff: Affordability is another benefit - we do not believe organic milk should be an elite beverage. Additionally, our participation in organic dairy has helped relieve a dramatic shortage of organic milk over the past several years,

Cornucopia: What you have been selling And with this fake organic milk, you have nearly single-handedly driven down the price of genuine organic milk, which is now pushing some family farmers to the point where some might have to quit.

Organics was always envisioned as an economic-justice vehicle for family farmers.  It was a vehicle whereas consumers could support hard-working families who were being driven off the land by corporate agribusinesses like yours.  It wasn't enough that you your compatriots made conventional dairy farming unprofitable. How you can sleep at night?

For the first time in the history of the organic dairy movement if a farmer wants to convert to organic management there is no company that will buy his or her milk  

------------------------------------------
Quality Assurance International press release from Tuesday, September 18:

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 18, 2007

CONTACT: Greta Houlahan
Phone: 734-913-5723
Email: houlahan@nsf.org

QAI Responds to False Claims of the Cornucopia Institute

SAN DIEGO, Calif. ­ The Cornucopia Institute has improperly and wrongfully impugned the certification practices of Quality Assurance International, Inc. ("QAI") based solely on certification decisions made by a different accredited certifier.  Contrary to the spin asserted by the Cornucopia Institute, QAI has not been accused of any wrongdoing by the United States Department of Agriculture ("USDA") Agriculture Marketing Service ("AMS"), and there is no suggestion by the USDA that QAI did anything wrong in its certification activities.  In its formal complaint filed with the USDA, the Cornucopia Institute simply is trying to capitalize on a Consent Agreement entered into by the USDA and Aurora Organic Dairy ("AOD").

The formal complaint is completely disingenuous about a Consent Agreement between AOD and the USDA, implying that it questions the certification decision of QAI when it clearly does not. While QAI does certify AOD's Dublin, Texas farm, the consent agreement does not mention non-compliances at the Dublin, Texas facility or improper certification decisions made by QAI.  QAI followed and applied all National Organic Program ("NOP") regulations, including but not limited to verifying that all suppliers to AOD had a valid certification from an accredited certifier.  By law, QAI is required to accept all certification decisions of other accredited certifiers.  (NOP 202.501 General Requirements for Accreditation. (a)(13. "Accept the certification decisions made by another certifying agent accredited or accepted by USDA, pursuant to NOP.500").

"QAI must rely on the certification decisions of other certifying agents, and QAI acted appropriately as required by law," said David Abney, general manager of QAI. "It is unfortunate that QAI has to now correct these misleading allegations and that the Cornucopia Institute failed to properly investigate these issues prior to releasing these claims to the public."

The formal complaint also alleges that QAI acted inappropriately when a statement of Mr. Abney appeared in an AOD press release before the Consent Agreement was known to QAI and/or otherwise became public.  In that statement, Mr. Abney merely explained that QAI stood by its certification decisions.  That statement was true then (before knowing about the Consent Agreement), and it still remains true today.  QAI stands by its certification decisions, and nothing in the Consent Agreement even remotely questions those decisions.

"QAI is charged with the mission to protect the interest of farmers and consumers by verifying that organic integrity is upheld and that applicable regulations are followed," said Mr. Abney.   "QAI complied with all regulations and is confident that the Cornucopia complaint against QAI will be dismissed."

QAI will continue to work closely with the USDA to make sure that AOD's facilities certified by QAI remain in compliance with the NOP and stands ready to enforce any new pasture requirements once adopted by the USDA.

Since 1989, QAI has been providing independent, third party organic certification services to the organic food industry. As a USDA-accredited certifying agent, QAI will continue to deliver excellent organic certification services and support our certification decisions and clients if these decisions are ever questioned.  QAI takes its commitment to providing independent, third party certification very seriously.  QAI's accredited and audited certification process ensures that each link in the supply chain meets USDA NOP regulation.

Quality Assurance International (QAI, Inc.), the global leader in certification services, has operations in the U.S., Canada, Japan and the European Union. Clients include agricultural producers, food processing facilities, integrated manufacturing operations and contract packing operations, traders, distributors, retailers, and other unique food operations. QAI's programs are designed to verify compliance at every link of the product handling chain, thus assuring consumers that product integrity is preserved in the marketplace. For further information about QAI, visit the company's website at http://www.qai-inc.com.

---------------------------
Commentary by Mark Retzloff (Aurora Organic Dairy)
published in Sustainable News, Wednesday, September 12

Some Inconvenient Truths about Aurora Organic Dairy
By Mark Retzloff, President and Chief Organic Officer
September 12, 2007

I've devoted nearly four decades of my life to building natural and organic food businesses that allow more people greater access to high-quality food that does not contain artificial ingredients, pesticides and known carcinogens.  Along the way, companies I helped develop, such as Alfalfa's Markets (later acquired by Wild Oats) and Horizon Organic, enabled more consumers to make healthier, sustainable food choices; created thousands of jobs; and created financial gain for investors who put their money at risk ­ myself included.

The natural and organic food business is filled with smart, opinionated people who really care about what they're doing, sometimes to the point of believing they've cornered the market on values and virtue.  It's a contentious business, with arguments about who's "more organic," and self-appointed experts who claim they know best what consumers expect when they pay for the organic label.

So I was distressed but not surprised to see last week's opinion piece concerning our company, Aurora Organic Dairy, by Sam Fromartz.

I respect Sam's knowledge of the evolution of the natural and organic foods business and his passion for the values at the heart of it.  In fact, I share many of those values, most notably the importance of compassionate animal care, sustainability and environmental stewardship.

But the column about our company left out a few inconvenient truths that don't fit a simplistic "good guy-bad guy" narrative.  Here's the rest of the story.

The recently completed USDA review of our operations was prompted in part by complaints made by an advocacy group whose self-described goal is to protect the interests of family-owned dairy farms.  This group accepts sponsorship money from certain organic producers who compete with our company. Readers can judge for themselves whether attacks on us are motivated purely by a concern for the integrity of the organic label or by simple competitive interests.

Following USDA's review, we reached an agreement under which we'll move forward with plans to redevelop our original organic dairy farm in Platteville, Colo., reducing the size of our herd to 1,000 cows and increasing the amount of organic pasture to about 400 acres. These plans have been in place for more than two years and work toward this goal, including a significant reduction in herd size, has already occurred in Platteville over the past 12 months.

Fromartz's opinion piece claims we accelerated our Platteville redevelopment plans due to the USDA inquiry.  That's false: these plans have been on the drawing board for more than two years.  If not for the uncertainty brought about by the review process and the necessity of resolving complaints made against us, we would have been in a position to move ahead much more quickly.

Our Platteville facility is Aurora Organic's original organic dairy farm. When we started our company in 2003, we converted it from a conventional dairy to an organic one, using valid USDA organic rules.

There's no question that our practices have evolved since our first farm was certified organic in 2003. In fact, the Aurora Organic dairy farms we have developed since then ­ such as our High Plains organic dairy outside Kersey, Colo. ­ consist of state-of-the-art milking facilities and barns to shelter our cows, surrounded by hundreds of acres of organic pasture, where our cows can and do graze daily during the growing season. In addition, we're fortunate that the sunny climate of our farms is naturally favorable for excellent animal health.

The editorial questioned the pasture policies of our company, but it failed to mention that there is no USDA specification regarding how much pasture an organic dairy must have, how many cows are permitted or how much time they are to spend grazing, beyond the simple phrase "access to pasture for ruminants."  Our company is on record as supporting a stricter USDA pasture standard requiring that all cows graze on pasture for at least 120 days during the growing season.  We have developed our farms to meet this standard and encourage the USDA's National Organic Standards Board to implement the new pasture rule as soon as possible.

We believe organic agriculture is better for people and for the planet. Since our company was founded, we have participated in the conversion of more than 50,000 acres of agricultural land from conventional to organic, including land we farm ourselves and land farmed by our network of farmer-partners.  Many of these are independent family farmers who supply feed, pasture and animal-care services to our organic dairies.

Some observers, whose glasses of organic milk are always half empty, have bemoaned the fact that what began as the organic food movement has evolved into a large, growing business.  But the conversion of thousands of acres of American agriculture from conventional to organic is one of the societal and environmental benefits that has resulted.

We believe that the conversion of conventional farms and land to organic is a critical part of the organic mission. Not only does this increase organic agriculture, but it replaces conventional with organic agricultural practices.

Affordability is another benefit.  Organic and natural foods are no longer something only the wealthiest U.S. households can afford.  At Aurora Organic, we do not believe organic milk should be an elite beverage, available only to those wealthiest of consumers who can afford to shop at gourmet and natural grocery stores. Economies of scale have brought the benefits of organic foods to many more dinner tables, and we believe consumers at all economic levels should have access to high-quality organic dairy products. Additionally, our participation in organic dairy has helped relieve a dramatic shortage of organic milk over the past several years, enabling more Americans to enjoy the benefits of organic.

At Aurora Organic Dairy, our mission is making high-quality organic milk and butter more affordable and available for American families.  Along with our CEO and co-founder, Marc Peperzak, I'm proud of the work our people do to fulfill this mission.  We're determined to demonstrate through our actions that a large-scale organic dairy can operate with integrity while meeting or exceeding all USDA organic requirements.

 Mark A. Kastel
The Cornucopia Institute
 kastel@cornucopia.org
608-625-2042 Voice
866-861-2214 Fax

P.O. Box 126 Cornucopia, Wisconsin 54827 www.cornucopia.org


For more information on this topic or related issues you can search the thousands of archived articles on the OCA website using keywords:

OrganicGeorge
post Sep 19 2007, 08:55 PM



Mark,

Your facts have been and continue to suspect at best.

I agree that Aurora dairy in CO has been problematic. I have never defended that operation and applauded Whole Foods when they refused to buy from that operation in CO.

The milk glut is the direct result of the Harvey lawsuit. It put a time table on whole herd conversion and so both large and small dairies rushed to convert to organic to beat the deadline. You are very aware of this fact and we have discussed on several occasions, yet you stick to your "facts" that only the big dairies somehow caused the organic milk glut.

However your painting QAI as cohort in crime is based on your reading of the Aurora consent agreement, but with out any real knowledge of the facts.

QAI is correct in their statement that they, by law, had to accept the CO certification. That is the way the law is written. I would like to know, how you know, that QAI knew there was a problem with the CO cows and ignored it? Or is it just your logical conclusion?

But then you always know the truth, and us mear mortals must stick to know facts, not conclusions that fit our beliefs.

diana
post Sep 30 2007, 08:34 PM


This is a little confusing, not the least of which is owed to two key players both being named "Mark."

Why did Mark Kastel of Cornucopia Institute sign a piece of writing that has as its end paragraph, "At Aurora Organic Dairy, our mission ..."???

QUOTE
At Aurora Organic Dairy, our mission is making high-quality organic milk and butter more affordable and available for American families. Along with our CEO and co-founder, Marc Peperzak, I'm proud of the work our people do to fulfill this mission. We're determined to demonstrate through our actions that a large-scale organic dairy can operate with integrity while meeting or exceeding all USDA organic requirements.

Mark A. Kastel
The Cornucopia Institute
kastel@cornucopia.org
608-625-2042 Voice
866-861-2214 Fax


Surely there must be a standard for sustainability in a dairy herd, and for dairy land. Does AOD "fit" this by current organic standards? I'm not sure what cow count would be workable, but any number in the thousands certainly can't really fit any legitimate version of sustainability!

Again, surely there must be a formal position paper put out by Cornucopia, or others in the local/ organic foods movement, that lays out the purpose of *pricing* organic milk sustainably. If it means that only farms with 1,000 head of milking cows can compete, driving out the small family farmer (we milked 400 at most, and that was a huge endeavor for our family farm), then it does not meet any viable notion of "sustainable."

I would also like clarification on QAI's role in the challenge to AOD. Was there reason for QAI to question another certifier's OK? Cornucopia's representative says that since, "the USDA is requiring that Aurora amend their Organic Systems Plan, their current one, approved by QAI, is obviously inconsistent with federal regulatory law." Is it that clear?

The USDA said the AOD was committing "willful violation" of a number of organic standards; isn't it kind of QAI's *job* to note when stuff like that is going on? How can that be overlooked, excused?

How on earth did we ever get mega-biz certification of organic businesses, anyway? Why is the fox, once again, sitting at the door of the henhouse? And why-oh-why are we silly, complacent Americans NOT out in the streets protesting this kind of thing? The integrity of our food is in question, here. This isn't like downplaying emissions errors or forgetting to fill out a federal form. This is willful poisoning of our bodies, our kids' bodies; this is big biz making a buck by lying to our faces, and then excusing themselves, with governmental complicity, until someone makes a big fuss. Or it sure sounds like that. And if fuss is what it takes to get people to honor food safety and the regulations that (merely begin to) enforce it, then let's get to it! --diana

grorganic
post Oct 19 2007, 11:18 PM


QUOTE (diana @ Sep 30 2007, 02:34 PM) *
This is a little confusing, not the least of which is owed to two key players both being named "Mark."

Why did Mark Kastel of Cornucopia Institute sign a piece of writing that has as its end paragraph, "At Aurora Organic Dairy, our mission ..."???
Surely there must be a standard for sustainability in a dairy herd, and for dairy land. Does AOD "fit" this by current organic standards? I'm not sure what cow count would be workable, but any number in the thousands certainly can't really fit any legitimate version of sustainability!

Again, surely there must be a formal position paper put out by Cornucopia, or others in the local/ organic foods movement, that lays out the purpose of *pricing* organic milk sustainably. If it means that only farms with 1,000 head of milking cows can compete, driving out the small family farmer (we milked 400 at most, and that was a huge endeavor for our family farm), then it does not meet any viable notion of "sustainable."

I would also like clarification on QAI's role in the challenge to AOD. Was there reason for QAI to question another certifier's OK? Cornucopia's representative says that since, "the USDA is requiring that Aurora amend their Organic Systems Plan, their current one, approved by QAI, is obviously inconsistent with federal regulatory law." Is it that clear?

The USDA said the AOD was committing "willful violation" of a number of organic standards; isn't it kind of QAI's *job* to note when stuff like that is going on? How can that be overlooked, excused?

How on earth did we ever get mega-biz certification of organic businesses, anyway? Why is the fox, once again, sitting at the door of the henhouse? And why-oh-why are we silly, complacent Americans NOT out in the streets protesting this kind of thing? The integrity of our food is in question, here. This isn't like downplaying emissions errors or forgetting to fill out a federal form. This is willful poisoning of our bodies, our kids' bodies; this is big biz making a buck by lying to our faces, and then excusing themselves, with governmental complicity, until someone makes a big fuss. Or it sure sounds like that. And if fuss is what it takes to get people to honor food safety and the regulations that (merely begin to) enforce it, then let's get to it! --diana


Diane,

I do not really understand your statements "Was there reason for QAI to question another certifier's OK?" and "How on earth did we ever get mega-biz certification of organic businesses, anyway?."

To the first point, as OrganicGeorge stated, one certifier CANNOT question another certifier. It is against the law, period. Have you read the organic regulation? If not let me refer you to 7 CFR 205.500 and happy reading.

To the second point about mega biz I do not know who you are referring to? CCOF a non profit claimed last year they certified the most # of operations in America, but they are run out of a house in Santa Cruz... a house! Doesn?t sound like mega biz to me. And QAI is owned by NSF a non-profit food safety company that got it start with clean water standards (thats right making sure you dont have chlorine in your water) and that the lettuce you buy doesnt have ecoli on it from the organic cow manure... That certainly doesn't sound like mega-biz to me either. Have you ever contacted these certifiers, gone to their webpages, talked to them, etc?

diana
post Oct 23 2007, 12:01 AM


QUOTE (gorginick @ Oct 19 2007, 11:18 PM) *
Diane,

I do not really understand your statements "Was there reason for QAI to question another certifier's OK?" and "How on earth did we ever get mega-biz certification of organic businesses, anyway?."

To the first point, as OrganicGeorge stated, one certifier CANNOT question another certifier. It is against the law, period. Have you read the organic regulation? If not let me refer you to 7 CFR 205.500 and happy reading.

To the second point about mega biz I do not know who you are referring to? CCOF a non profit claimed last year they certified the most # of operations in America, but they are run out of a house in Santa Cruz... a house! Doesn?t sound like mega biz to me. And QAI is owned by NSF a non-profit food safety company that got it start with clean water standards (thats right making sure you dont have chlorine in your water) and that the lettuce you buy doesnt have ecoli on it from the organic cow manure... That certainly doesn't sound like mega-biz to me either. Have you ever contacted these certifiers, gone to their webpages, talked to them, etc?


gorginick,

I thought it was pretty clear. The idea was that QAI should have questioned, and if they are not allowed to, then something is amiss. I guess it goes back to integrity, rather than selling a position, and there isn't a lot of that anywhere these days. But getting it back shouldn't be impossible. Beyond this, it sounds like we need credible and legitimate standards, and they need to be followed. And they need to be monotored by groups that are acting in the public's (not business') interests, funded by a neutral source. That's the big picture.

There's been a great deal written elsewhere on this forum about the details and the workability of the standards, and the neutrality of QAI (just search for "QAI"). I haven't heard much on CCOF, so I will search it out. Nope to the query on 7 CFR 205.500, I haven't visited, and I'm not real inclined to check in either. If I have a specific inquiry, I certainly will, but for background, there are names I've trusted now across at least a couple of years, and I research when I'm going to do anything specific, anyway. My observation was big-picture, overview. And I still think that those who check are often the wrong people, often acting for the wrong reasons.

Have you read my post elsewhere here on green-washing? It seems that business skirts the regulations often, anyway, by being tested for the equivalent of unicorns and aliens, for things that don't even exist in that particular industry. Yes, Bidness XYZ did wunnerful, can boast about being a clean corp and all, when, in fact, they leech more toxins than a hillside CAFO in a flood-watch storm system. Or we mandate the removal of particulates when it's the invisible stuff that really hurts health, causes cancers and birth defects, and burns kids' lungs. --d(lowercase)-i-a-n-a(not e)