How Now Organic Cow – What Is the Whole Story?
March 14, 2008. In June 2007, the Federation Of Organic Dairy Farmers (FOOD Farmers) organized a meeting between representatives from organic dairy farmers organizations across the country and representatives from processors of organic dairy. The meeting discussed issues of common interest in the organic dairy industry centered on promoting organic dairy products and preserving the integrity of the organic seal.
The goal of the meeting was to produce recommendations for an access to pasture rule and dairy herd replacements but none of the processors felt able to publically support the FOOD Farmers position at that time.
The attendees at the meeting in June discussed the increasingly serious problems of rapidly spirally production costs for organic dairy farmers. FOOD Farmers continued to investigate the deteriorating situation into the fall of 2007 with regular conference calls of producers across the country.
In November 2007, the farmers sent a letter to all the processors explaining the increased cost of production and requesting that discussion start immediately to increase the price that farmers receive for their organic milk. Farmers estimated that it would take a 20% increase to bring them to a break even position. This request and follow-up phone calls were ignored. NODPA staff and individual farmers continue to talk with processors and in January 2008, the processors awarded their first increase in two years, an average of a 3% annual increase. With no willingness from the processors to talk with farmers, FOOD Farmers sent another letter in January, which was again ignored.
After many conference calls the board of NODPA with the support of the organizing committee for FOOD Farmers worked with NODPA staff to write a news release to highlight the dramatically worsening situation with farmers and the farmers’ frustration with the lack of response from processors.
This press release was posted on the gristmill website which in turn brought a response from Gary Hirschberg of Stonyfield Farm which was answered by NODPA executive Director Ed Maltby.
NODPA was founded to increase communication within all areas of the organic dairy community and this dialogue is an important way of bringing into the open the thorny issues for organic dairy producers and processors. We welcome your comments and feedback regarding the conversation represented by the letters and releases, reprinted below.
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