Aurora changes to comply with organic standards

by Staff
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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service and Aurora Organic Dairy have entered into a consent agreement in an effort to resolve a Notice of Proposed Revocation.

The notice was issued earlier this year and cited alleged violations of National Organic Program regulations. The A.M.S. began investigating Aurora as a result of allegations that animals did not have enough pasture. In the process of investigating, the A.M.S. also found animals were improperly transitioned to organic and inadequate records had been kept.

To meet the requirements of the consent agreement, Aurora’s Platteville, Colo., facility must meet several conditions to continue to operate as a certified organic dairy.

The conditions include providing daily access to pasture during the growing season; reducing the number of cows to be consistent with the pasture available; eliminating cows that were not transitioned properly into an organic operation and not marketing these cows’ milk as organic; and agreeing to use a more rigorous transitioning process when animals are added to the herd.

"Through cooperating with the U.S.D.A. at all levels, we will remain focused on our mission of making high-quality organic milk and butter more affordable and available for American families," said Mark Retzloff, president and chief organic officer of Aurora.

Additional changes include Aurora agreeing not to renew organic certification for its Woodward, Colo., facility and to enter written agreements with suppliers of animals for its Dublin, Texas, facility to verify the certification of those suppliers and to ensure the proper transitioning of these animals to organic.

To comply with the conditions, Aurora said it plans to increase the amount of pasture acreage at the Platteville facility to about 400 acres and decrease the size of the farm’s dairy herd to about 1,250 milking cows. Around three-fourths of the farm’s buildings and paddocks will be done away with and converted to pasture, and all incoming and replacement animals will be organically born.

"The organic industry is booming, and the National Organic Program is a high priority of U.S.D.A. and through this consent agreement, consumers can be assured that milk labeled as organic in the supermarket is indeed organic," said Bruce I. Knight, U.S.D.A. undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs.

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