Late last week, 27 Vermont dairy farms received letters from Danone, owner of Horizon Organic, notifying them that their contracts will be terminated in August 2022. These dairy farms will no longer have a buyer for their organic milk.
It’s no secret that the dairy market is already tight. With nowhere to sell their organic milk, these 27 Vermont farms could go out of business in the next year.
We’re devastated by this news. NOFA-VT is talking with the affected farmers, state officials, policymakers, partner organizations, and milk buyers to understand the situation and we’re working hard to find ways to support these farmers.
In a state where the working landscape is foundational to our identity and critical for our future, the health and growth of thriving organic agriculture— which can heal many of the impacts of ecological decline and climate change while also keeping Vermonters fed— should be seen as an indicator of Vermont’s overall vitality.
This is a critical moment to take stock and ensure that the path forward makes it easier, not harder, to be an organic farmer keeping Vermonters fed and Vermont’s land healthy; to ensure a future with viable farms that are part of an environmentally, economically, and socially resilient food system.
On the national scale, we will continue to advocate to ensure the National Organic Program regulations are applied fairly and consistently so that small and medium scale farms are not at a disadvantage to large, corporate farms.
This decision by Danone/Horizon points directly to the need to close the loophole in the Origin of Livestock Rule. Inconsistent interpretation of this rule means that large scale dairy farms in the west and midwest continuously bring conventionally raised animals into their herds, while farms in Vermont have to raise all animals organically (i.e. at a much higher cost) from before birth. The result is a market flooded with a lower-quality and cheaper organic product, making it impossible for small and medium scale organic farms to compete and thrive.
NOFA-VT will keep our members and broader community updated as this situation evolves. Please stay tuned and support your local organic farmers.