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Bush Era Organic Scandal Ends in 7.5 Million Dollar Settlement

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BOULDER, CO - What has been billed the largest scandal in the history of the organic industry has now resulted in a court settlement on behalf of consumers against Aurora Dairy, a giant factory farm operator with industrial-scale operations in Colorado and Texas. Aurora has agreed to pay plaintiffs in a class-action consumer fraud lawsuit $7.5 million to end litigation involving fraudulent marketing claims concerning organic milk. Aurora and its major customers, supermarket chains selling private-label organic milk, were accused of misrepresenting the authenticity of their products.

Aurora, based in Boulder, Colorado, first gained notoriety in 2005 when The Cornucopia Institute, a farm policy research group that acts as an organic industry watchdog, filed a formal legal complaint with the USDA alleging that it was producing its milk on giant feedlots, confining as many as 4,400 milk cows, instead of grazing their cattle, as federal organic standards require.

Cornucopia's first complaint was summarily dismissed by Bush administration political appointees at the USDA. A second complaint was eventually adjudicated by federal regulators finding that not only had Aurora "willfully" violated regulations requiring pasture for their animals but it also used non-organic subcontractors and illegally brought conventional cows into their organic operations.

"Even after the USDA found that Aurora had 'willfully' violated 14 tenets of the organic standards this company, with over $100 million in revenue, was allowed to continue in operation, without a cent of fines," said Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute.

Because of the multitude of problems found at Aurora, one of the violations documented by the USDA was selling milk that did not meet the federal organic standards.
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