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Nation's Largest Organic Dairy Brand, Horizon, Accused of Violating Organic Standards

>From the Cornucopia Institute <> 2/16/05


Contact: Mark Kastel 608-625-2042
James Miller or Roman Stoltzfoos

Dean/Horizon Feedlot Dairy Accused of Masquerading as an Organic Farm

CORNUCOPIA, WISCONSIN: The Cornucopia Institute filed two formal
complaints today with the USDA¹s Office of Compliance asking them to
initiate investigations into alleged violations of the federal organic law
by factory farms operating in Idaho and California. At issue are
fundamental organic livestock management practices that require ruminants,
including dairy cows, to consume a significant percentage of their feed from
pasture. The complaints ask the USDA to investigate whether it is legal to
confine cows in an industrial setting, without access to pasture, and still
label milk and dairy products organic.

The 4000-head Idaho factory farm is owned and managed by country's largest
organic dairy marketer, Dean/Horizon. The California industrial farm ­
owned by Case Vander Eyk, Jr. and with 10,000 cows split between its organic
and conventional operation ­ also supplies Dean/Horizon with milk. (Last
month, The Cornucopia Institute filed a similar complaint with the USDA
concerning management practices at the 5700-head Aurora dairy, based in
Colorado ‹ another supplier of milk for Dean/Horizon.)

"We have been interested in these confined animal feeding operations, or
CAFOs, for some time," said Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst, at the
Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute. 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. "It is our
contention that you cannot milk 2000­6000 cows and offer them true access to
pasture as required by the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, the law
that governs all domestic organic farming and food processing," said Kastel.

In filing their latest complaints with the USDA, The Cornucopia Institute
relied upon a number of published interviews with the owners and management
of these farms and over a dozen independent interviews with dairy experts
who had visited the farms and examined farm records including; a
veterinarian, consultants, suppliers and other dairy farmers. The group has
also reviewed independent photographic evidence.

³According to reports, both the Idaho and California operations differ
little from conventional confinement dairies other than having their
high-producing cows fed certified organic feed,² said Kastel. "Real organic
farms have made great financial investments in converting to pasture-based
production ­ enhancing the nutritional properties of the milk and for
enhancing animal health ­ while it appears that these large
corporate-dominated enterprises are happy just to pay lip service to
required organic ethics."

"This is a matter of fairness and ethics,² said James Miller, a Columbus,
Wisconsin dairy farmer. ³When we certified our 1475 acres and 340 cows
organic we went to the expense and effort to convert our very best and most
fertile fields, surrounding the barn, to pasture.² Cows managed organically
and pasture-based tend to have lower levels of production and also live much
longer and healthier lives. "We should not be put at a competitive
disadvantage by taking the high-road in organics," Miller affirmed.

Dean/Horizon¹s Idaho factory dairy is located in Jerome County and near the
community of Paul. The arid, near-desert environment makes pasturing
difficult and economically impractical for the thousands of dairy animals.
As a result, the animals are confined to drylots with feed brought to them
in bulk quantities. (A photo gallery of the Dean/Horizon farm can be found
at <> .)

Craig Muchow, a diversified organic farmer from Gooding, Idaho noted that
the Dean/Horizon farm has turned its back on many area farmers after
initially seeking their support: ³After Horizon converted their large farm
to organic they solicited local hay growers and offered us a price-premium
to supply them with alfalfa if we also converted to organic production.
That worked well for the first few years but then they did away with most
premiums and now they have abandoned many small farmers in the area
altogether.² According to a number of neighbors, much of the feed the
Horizon farm now buys is shipped in on railroad cars and processed by one of
the largest corporate agribusiness concerns in the United States.

³Even if the Dean/Horizon farm were to acquire more acreage for pasture,²
Kastel said, ³it is likely that this land is simply not suitable for organic
dairying.² Asked Kastel: ³Are they going to irrigate pasture for thousands
of cows in an area that¹s been drought-stricken for the past several years?
State residents are very concerned about depleting the aquifer.²

The Vander Eyk factory dairy is located in California¹s San Joaquin Valley
and near the community of Pixley. Vander Eyk¹s ³split² operation combines
as many as 7000 conventional cows with approximately 3000 organic animals.
Dairy cows are reportedly trucked to pasture on the farm but The Cornucopia
Institute contends that this is not a practice used for the portion of the
herd that is being actively milked.

"The problem is the locating of these dairies," said Roman Stoltzfoos a
Kinzers, Pennsylvania, pasture-based farmer milking 130 cows. "If anyone
gave two hoots about organics they would have located their dairy where they
could have grazed and kept it smaller."

The mammoth Vander Eyk farm has also been targeted for its employment
practices. The owner recently reached a $360,000 labor settlement covering
125 workers who contended that were not allowed rest or meal breaks, nor
paid overtime, and were not reimbursed for safety equipment they had to
purchase for use in their jobs.

"I am relieved that these workers will be rightfully compensated," said
Melissa Barrios staff attorney for the California Rural Legal Assistance
Foundation who represented the workers.

Other factory-farm herd management practices, though not formally part of
Cornucopia¹s USDA complaints, came under fire from Kastel. ³Milking by these
confinement operations greatly increases the stress on dairy cows,² Kastel
said. ³Some of these factory farms are sending as many as 40% of their
animals to slaughter each year because the long-term health of the animals
is not enough of a concern, as the organic law intends.²
Wisconsin dairyman James Miller contends that his organic management
practices are what organic consumers expect and demand. ³We are proud to be
producing what a lot of people want," said Miller who markets his milk with
the Organic Valley cooperative. "Maintaining the high integrity of organic
production and the respect of our customers is just plain good business."
"Conventional agriculture is corrupted by corporations who view producing
food very differently," said Pennsylvania dairyman Roman Stoltzfoos whose
family ships their milk to Natural by Nature. "Now if they have their way,
they will be corrupting organic agriculture too."

After The Cornucopia Institute filed its January 10th complaint with the
USDA concerning management practices at the Aurora dairy, the federal agency
requested that its National Organic Standards Board review pasture
requirements at its upcoming March 1 meeting in Washington, DC. Farmers will
be out in full force and pressuring for stricter enforcement.

- 30 -


The formal complaints to the USDA are posted on The Cornucopia Institute¹s
Web site at <> . We can also
supply you electronically with professional-quality B&W photos of Mr.
Kastel and our organizational logo. If you would like these, please email

Before converting to organic production, and being purchased by Horizon, the
Idaho farm, on which The Cornucopia Institute today filed a complaint with
the USDA, was owned by the Aurora Dairy Group, one of the largest corporate
dairy farm owners in United States, controlling thousands of cows. Their
majority shareholder is Marc Peperzak. Mr. Peperzak, was also one of the
founders and past chairman of Horizon prior to its purchase by Dean Foods.

Mr. Peperzak along with Mark Retzloff (also a past founder of Horizon) are
two of the principles in the giant ³organic² Aurora feedlot-dairy in
Platteville, Colorado. The Cornucopia Institute filed a similar complaint
with the USDA on January 10 concerning their organic herd management

Dean Foods is largest milk bottler in United States with about a third of
the market. They purchased Horizon, the largest bottler of organic milk, in
2003 and combined the operations with White Wave, the manufacturer of the
nation's leading refrigerated soy drink, Silk. They are an impressive and
dominant factor in the organic marketplace.

Milk from the three farms under investigation is marketed by Dean/Horizon
and are by far the largest farms producing organic milk in the country.

Commenting on the intertwined relationship of the farms, Kastel said ³These
are millionaires who have invested in corporate factory farms and are now
attempting to cash in on the premiums offered by organic consumers. The
common denominator is Dean Foods, the $11 billion corporation that now owns
and controls Horizon ."

The Cornucopia Institute
608-625-2042 Voice
608-625-2043 Fax