Organic Milk Supplier Must Reduce Herd, Says USDA

DENVER -- Aurora Organic Dairy, one of the nation's largest organic milk producers that supplies milk to leading supermarkets and natural foods stores, has been ordered to reduce its herd to comply with grazing rules under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to published reports.

The USDA got involved after the Cornucopia Institute policy group of Wisconsin alleged that cows were kept in feedlots rather than grazing on pasture as required by law.

The USDA's marketing service said it will monitor operations at Aurora's properties in Platteville, Colo. and Dublin, Texas for compliance. The USDA said a violation of the agreement could prompt the revocation of Aurora's organic certification.

Bruce Knight, under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs, said the agency also found other violations at Aurora. The agency said Aurora did not ensure its cows were converted to organic cows, which involves the amount of organic feed the animals consume. As a result, he said the milk from those cows could not be labeled as organic.

Clark Driftmier, v.p. of marketing at Aurora, said the dairy would sell the cows in question, and that 75 percent of barns and other buildings will be razed to make room for more organic pasture, according to the AP. In addition, all the cows at the dairy will be organically grown from birth.

Driftmier said many of the changes included in the agreement with the USDA had been planned before the complaint was filed.

The Cornucopia Institute said these actions don't go far enough -- it wants Aurora to be penalized for violating organic standards.

Aurora Organic Dairy has five farms in Colorado and Texas with more than 5,700 acres of certified organic pasture land. The company reportedly provides private label milk for Wal-Mart, Safeway, Costco, Target, Wild Oats, and other retailers.
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