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Appearance by Agribusiness Executive at Organic Conference Stirs Controversy

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LA CROSSE, WIS: Regardless of the weather, the heat has been turned up at the La Crosse Center, which will host the largest organic farming conference in the United States, starting February 27. A prominent organic industry watchdog, The Cornucopia Institute, has called on event sponsors to cancel an appearance by an employee of one of the largest corporate agribusinesses involved in organics, WhiteWave, calling them an unethical "perennial bad actor" in the organic marketplace.

The MOSES organic farming conference, sponsored by the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, a nonprofit headquartered in Spring Valley, Wisconsin, typically draws over 3,000 industry participants for a three-day event. One of its many workshops this year will be conducted by WhiteWave's Suzanne Kevlyn, a market research expert, who will purportedly help farmers understand "consumer demographics, behaviors, attitudes, and mindsets."

"Here is a representative of an agribusiness with a history of dropping Midwest organic soybean producers and switching purchases to China, illegally cutting off Nebraska dairy farmers when there were organic milk surpluses, and switching Silk plant-based beverages, formally an all-organic brand, to 94% conventional products," stated Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at Cornucopia.  "What are they going to teach organic farmers, how to expand profits by betraying the values that this industry was founded upon?"