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Enforcement Hammer Falls on Giant Arizona Organic Factory Farm Dairy

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CORNUCOPIA, WI - An industrial-scale organic dairy, located south of Phoenix in the desert Southwest, is poised to lose its USDA organic certification.  The enforcement action at Shamrock Farms is the result of a USDA investigation into organic livestock management practices that was triggered by a formal complaint from The Cornucopia Institute.

Shamrock operates a massive dairy that was milking approximately 16,000 cows at the time of an inspection by Cornucopia staff in 2008.  Between 700 and 1,100 of the cows at the split operation were in the organic milk herd; the remainder were part of a conventional dairy that is part of the same sprawling complex.  Shamrock is Arizona's first-ever certified organic dairy. 

"We found inadequate, overgrazed pasture adjacent to their milking facility, and we were told by Shamrock employees that the confined cows had not been out in weeks" said Mark A.  Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst for Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry watchdog.

Federal organic regulations require that cows be grazed, and the practice has been a contentious issue in the organic arena.  A number of factory-scale dairies - some milking thousands of cows each - have been spotlighted by Cornucopia's investigations for skirting the law.  Formal complaints to the USDA from the farm policy group have led to similar enforcement actions against other giant dairies that they say are "masquerading as organic"

"As an organic dairy farmer who believes in and follows the law, I am upset that outfits like Shamrock are allegedly cheating and deceiving organic consumers" said John Boere, a Modesto, California dairy producer who ships his milk to Organic Valley, a cooperative of primarily family farmers.   "Over the past few years there has been a surplus of organic milk, which injured plenty of farms like mine.  Ethical producers like me could have recovered some of our income if certifiers and the USDA had been doing their jobs" added Boere.
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