The USDA's National Organic Program (NOP), the nation's authority for properly certified organic food production, today officially closed a May 2, 2017, complaint against Aurora Organic Dairy's (AOD) High Plains Dairy in Gill, Colo., finding the company in full compliance with the access to pasture and grazing regulations required in organic dairy production, Boulder, Colo.-based AOD said.
"The NOP confirmed what we have known all along: that Aurora Organic Dairy is a 100% organic company,” said Marc Peperzak, founder and CEO. “Their investigation included a thorough review of our facilities, our grazing practices and the records we maintain to document compliance with the organic rule. We've confronted false criticism with facts by fully and transparently cooperating with this enforcement process, and this outcome clearly validates our organic certifications."
AOD said that a widely circulated media report that falsely claimed its farming methods and milk might not be organic was not informed by the actual requirements of the organic rule. Following its investigation, the NOP Issued a letter to AOD, dated Sept. 27, 2017, stating, "We determined that Aurora's livestock and pasture management practices comply with existing USDA organic regulations and NOP policies." The agency closed the case, concluding that no part of the complaint had merit.
The same media report erroneously suggested milk testing can determine if a product's organic grazing requirements are being met, AOD stated. However, the NOP's letter further stated that "testing based on nutrient levels is not part of the existing organic standards and, therefore, cannot serve as a criteria for assessing compliance."
Organic livestock producers are required to rigorously plan and document herd and pasture management that maximizes the grazing season. At times, non-continuous grazing is used to protect soils, plants and animal health as part of this plan, AOD said.
"It is unfortunate that some activists continue to perpetuate the misguided belief that only small dairy farms can be organic, when the organic rule, itself, is scale-neutral," Peperzak stated. "The truth is, our size makes a positive difference. Not only have we converted many thousands of pasture acres to organic agriculture, but we have supported the conversion of tens of thousands more acres for other organic feed crop producers. Our scale has also helped create markets for all organic milk producers."