Co-op Contention

Tillamook upholds rBST policy despite Monsanto pressure.
Members of Oregon’s Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA) in late February voted to uphold a policy requiring the cooperative’s 147 producers to stop using recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) on their herds, despite an aggressive campaign against the policy launched by the maker of the artificial hormone.
TCCA reported a 2-to-1 margin in support of the policy, which calls for members to stop using rBST by April 1, 2005. The vote came as a result of a group of TCCA members, rallied by rBST-maker Monsanto Corp., to block the restriction.
While TCCA is not the only dairy business in the country to forgo the use of rBST, Monsanto has been especially vigorous in trying to dissuade the co-op from implementing its policy, TCCA officials reported. Monsanto representatives met with TCCA executives last June and pressed the co-op to reconsider its policy. In November, the president of Monsanto’s dairy business sent letters directly to TCCA members questioning the policy and seeking its reversal.
TCCA leaders decried the letters as an intrusion into the co-op’s internal affairs and what they called an unprece­dented effort to divide member farmers over the issue.
In April 2003, TCCA’s board began the lengthy process of developing and implementing an rBST-free policy for all producers delivering milk to its plants in Tillamook and Boardman, Ore. The co-op says the policy, codified in May 2004, was adopted after exhaustive discussions and research initiated by the board.
TCCA says the decision was based on customer requests and a company preference for “traditional” practices. Monsanto says it will respect the policy but hopes it will be reconsidered.
St. Louis-based Monsanto is the only commercial producer of rBST. Sold under the brand name Posilac, the artificial hormone stimulates milk production in cows. While the FDA has approved rBST, many consumers have become concerned about its use. In fact, TCCA reports, consumer inquiries on the subject have more than doubled in the past year. As such, TCCA determined that using milk produced without rBST supplementation better meets customers’ expectations.
TCCA does not intend to label its products rBST-free because, the co-op says, such labeling might cause consumer confusion due to the FDA’s findings that milk from rBST-supplemented cows is safe and no different than milk coming from untreated cows. The co-op will, however, inform its customers who ask about rBST about the policy.
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Operation We Care sends care packages each month to specific military members overseas. For more information, visit
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