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Organic Consumers Association Responds to United Natural Foods CEO Michael Funk, Vows to Continue Boycott on Horizon

CONTACT: Ronnie Cummins 218-226-4164

WASHINGTON, DC - The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) boycott against Horizon Organic, a subsidiary of Dean Foods, Inc. was launched last year because the huge dairy is exploiting loopholes in the USDA NOP (National Organic Program) by labeling milk produced in giant intensive confinement feedlots, where the cows have little or no access to pasture, as 'USDA Organic.' Horizon  and another dairy, Aurora, are seriously undermining organic integrity by utilizing these intensive confinement practices.

OCA acted in good faith by clearly communicating to Horizon what they needed to do to end the boycott, but Horizon has yet to respond or even make a counter offer. Now Michael Funk, United Natural Foods CEO, who has recently been acting as a mediator, has resorted to mudslinging against OCA. It is a shame that the companies involved seem willing to do just about anything but deal with the violations of organic standards that lead to the boycott . "OCA will not be intimidated. We intend to continue the boycott until Horizon agrees to produce only truly organic milk," says Ronnie Cummins, Executive Director of OCA, in response to an open letter from Michael Funk.

In his letter Michael Funk writes:
What OCA intentionally ignores is that Horizon Organic, like any organic dairy farmer, is already regulated and certified by an independent third party or its two company owned farms as well as the 363 organic farms with whom is does business.

OCA is aware that Horizon Organic is already certified organic. However, organic certifiers, like the one that Horizon uses, are allowing companies such as Horizon to exploit loopholes in the USDA NOP program to gain that certification.  OCA's demands are clear, Horizon and other organic dairies must provide regular pasture access for their cows, and these cows must be raised organically from birth.

Michael Funk continues:
As a concerned member of the organic food community, I urge you not only to ignore the latest attack on Horizon Organic, but also to put pressure on OCA to end their boycott.

What Michael Funk fails to mention in his letter  (see for the full
letter) is that he is a major distributor of both Horizon Organic and Aurora Organic Milk through United Natural Food's private label Woodstock Farms, and stands to lose money from the continuation of the boycott.

"I am also a concerned member of the organic community, and I want to do everything I can to make sure that products labeled as organic meet the standards consumers expect from the organic label, and that the organic label continues to mean something.  When we polled our members, individuals with no vested interest, they were overwhelmingly in favor of the boycott. It is time for Horizon to listen to the consumers," says Ronnie Cummins.

OCA will end the boycott if five basic demands are met. These include:
(1) Horizon immediately and publicly announcing plans to discontinue purchasing organic milk from any source not meeting the proposed NOP dairy pasture standards (grazing during the entire growing season, but not less than 120 days, and providing a minimum of 30% dry matter intake during the growing season),
(2) Horizon will put into place a policy on its corporate owned farms, and a requirement for its independent suppliers that any cattle brought onto a certified organic dairy operation will have been managed organically from the last third of gestation,
(3) Horizon will immediately open its records on its farming operations and its facilities for inspection by an independent certifier/verification team or agency chosen by the Organic Consumers Association.,
(4) Horizon will provide the names and contact information for all farms milking over 400 cows and requiring their independent suppliers to be subjected to independent third-party inspection by an independent certifier/verification agency chosen by the Organic Consumers Association,

and (5) that before any public announcement about a suspension of the boycott takes place, OCA's designated outside verification team will have the right to inspect any or all of Horizon's proprietary farms as well as designated farm supplies with herds of 400 or more milking cows.

A study by the Cornucopia Institute found that Horizon is purchasing a major portion of their milk from feedlot dairies where the cows have little or no access to pasture, and have routinely been importing calves from conventional farms, where animals are routinely weaned on blood plasma, fed genetically engineered feed, slaughterhouse waste, and poultry manure, and injected or treated with antibiotics. ###

Telephone: 218-226-4164 · Fax: 218-353-7652