Why thinking consumers boycott products from Organic Valley due to its egregious business practices against member farms that border on modern feudalism.
In a very quiet decision that received little media attention even within the natural foods industry, the board of directors of Organic Valley recently voted 4-3 to ban the farmers which make up its 1600 small farm cooperative from selling raw milk to consumers on the side.
The company cited legal concerns and complaints from farmers regarding competition as its reasons for the decision. This is sheer and utter nonsense and a perfect example of corporate smoke and mirrors. The attorneys for Organic Valley even admit that the legal issues are nothing to worry about in actuality.
And, the competition issue? It’s not farmers complaining about competition that is the true worry for Organic Valley.
The truth is the company is terrified of the surging popularity of raw milk. This market trend combined with an increasingly savvy and informed consumer that is rapidly moving away from processed milk and back to the “fresh from the farm” variety threatens to affect company profits over the long haul.
Indeed, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of pasteurization, particularly ultra pasteurization, the type of milk processing favored by Organic Valley for its Grade A milk.
With this knowledge, consumers are seeking out farmers directly for their fresh dairy which ultimately threatens to stagnate profit growth for Organic Valley if this type of trend continues (all indications are that it will).
In an attempt to strangle the competition, protect its source of supply and handcuff its farmers from making revenue elsewhere, Organic Valley has chosen the “bully the farmer” approach to managing its small farm cooperative. The company has now become more like the mega-dairy processors it claims to abhor who make a habit of pushing farmers around to line the pockets of its own executives and to aggressively protect their market interests.
Boycott All Organic Valley Products!
Organic Valley has shown its true colors with this decision.
Taking a step in this direction indicates a basic company disregard and disrespect for farmer independence and consumer choice.
Forbidding what a farmer does with his time and product outside of his contract with Organic Valley is a blow below the belt and just plain wrong.
Direct sales to the consumer are one of the smartest business decisions a small farmer can make to keep his operation profitable. Forbidding this type of activity threatens the economic sustainability of its small farms, ironically one of Organic Valley’s stated goals.
Such an outrageous and hypocritical corporate decision requires swift and decisive action on the part of the consumer.
For my part, I will no longer be buying any Organic Valley products.
I never did buy their milk, but I will no longer buy their cheese, butter, or other dairy items either.
I hope you will join me in a boycott of this company that pretends to be a friend of the environment, farmers, and consumers but is nothing short of a wolf in sheep’s clothing to the sustainable and local family farm movement.
Organic Valley’s business practices are simply a modern form of feudalism that benefits the nobles and squashes the peasants.
I was an Organic Valley Farmer/Producer up until a few months ago, when Organic Valley reneged on their Producer Agreement and pulled out on us leaving us with no market and no notice. In doing so they ignored their own “6 month notice” clause in that agreement. Organic Valley has no conscience when dealing with their farmer/producers – if you are not making them money or fame, then sooner or later you will be removed from their ranks. When Organic Valley is short on milk supply, they go out and sign on literally hundreds of farms and by the time that those farms start physically coming on line with their milk production, Organic Valley realizes that they really are not short on milk, and they start working on eliminating those farms and restricting their production to the point of bankrupting them out of business. They did this in 2009 and once again in 2017/2018. When they are oversupplied on milk, instead of getting down to business with ramping up the marketing, Organic Valley turns on those same farmers that they were begging to produce milk and then says we Don’t need it anymore. See Organic Valley has gotten into the bad habit of balancing their milk supply by putting their farmers out of business when they are oversupplied. When enough farms bankrupt and go out of business, then the national supply of organic milk decreases and Organic Valley goes back to it’s business as usual with their supply line once again in balance with their sales.
If a short research was done on the major commanders of the Cooperative, it would easily be discovered that those folks are very, very heavily invested in Organic Valley stock and thus is the reasoning behind the Cooperative always having to declare a profit on their Balance sheet at the end of the year. 2017 was the first year in history that Organic Valley had to declare a loss for the year – that was a huge issue for the leadership. Even in 2009 Organic Valley declared a profit at year end – after all, the major stockholders must take home a big dividend check every year even if the Farmers are going out of business. Typically the dividends have to come out of funding that would have otherwise gone to the producers in some form or another. Paying Dividends on their stock is first and foremost with Organic Valley, after all “Farmers are expendable and easily replaced” – that should be their new montra.
A huge shock to the Organic Valley consumer would be to know that the cooperative enforces it’s plethora of Dairy Policies and rules on an extremely selective basis – I have seen this first hand. If a particular Producer is a favorite and or a “Poster Kid” (as I like to term it) Organic Valley just doesn’t seem to notice little things like operating a Conventional herd and an Organic herd on the same farm property, all the while using the same milk tank and milking facility. Also feeding organic calves from conventional cows. Oh and what about shipping way under the 1,000 lb,/pickup minimum shipment. And the grand slam of the entire affair was the animal welfare issue of having over 90% of the organic herd die in a matter of days and pass it off as a tragedy for the farmer – this was sheer neglect and negligence on the farmers part. What did Organic Valley do – in regards to the split herd issue Conventional/Organic on the same premises —- nothing, Animal Welfare issue – Organic Valley gave the Producer money out of a disaster fund (a fund for famers who are faced with a death of an operator, barn fire, major flood, etc.) to help them through the rough times. What about the organic calves feeding off of conventional cows – nothing done there either. What about the low milk volume pick ups — nothing there either. Why were all of these things overlooked – very simple. The farm was one of the Grassmilk Poster Kids and had been written up in one of the cooperative publications. If Organic Valley was queried about this they would just say that it was all not true. Now let’s look at the flipside of these same issues – take the new production cell in Missouri – if you can’t meet the minimum ship than tough luck, throw your milk away. And then what about the split operation issue – strictly not tolerated. And what about feeding Organic calves off of Conventional cows – are you kidding me – don’t even ask that question. I can guarantee you that if over 90% of my herd died in a matter of days, that Organic Valley would have been demanding details and answers. See Missouri is a losing venture for Organic Valley. Somewhere in the private processes of the cooperative, there has been a significant marketing failure and almost all of the Missouri milk is sold discounted to DFA and it never leaves Missouri or is used organically. Consequently Organic Valley has assessed a very significant extra haul charge on all of this milk produced and that all comes out of the Producers checks, yet most of the milk never leaves Missouri. Missouri production costs are significantly higher than many other areas of the U.S., yet Organic Valley pays it’s producers in other areas higher prices for their milk, because they are not selling their milk conventional – yet. See when Organic Valley fails on their management and marketing end of the business, they just take the loss out of the producers checks. And then what about the over 2,000 employees that are paid by the cooperative – this alone is a recipe for disaster, as there is roughly a 1 to 1 ratio of Farmer Producers to Employees in the cooperative. I believe that this ratio is so far out of balance that it is a very significant factor in the cooperative performing subpar to it’s financial needs. When an organization has a policy of hiring their children into the business as Organic Valley has and then those employees are not required to actually contribute in a manner that justifies their compensation, this also is a recipe for disaster. Way too many employees for the number of Farmers. You see the word Sustainable is not properly upheld within the halls of Organic Valley – the farmers have to farm sustainably, but the cooperative sees no obligation in compensating those same farmers in a financially sustainable fashion. Unless you just so happen to be one of the chosen few Poster Kids of the Cooperative. Do not take my word for this information, do your own research – talk to Dairy Farmers in several different regions, just do not obtain a list of Producers from Organic Valley, because it will only contain the “Chosen Ones”. Marketing is a wonderful trade, IF what is being portrayed is actually and truly genuine!
The dairy market is depressed already, with many, MANY farmers going out of business every week. Your “little” campaign can do nothing but hurt the already struggling organic farms – farms like ours. We milk 28 cows and are losing money every day, due to low milk prices.
Remember, all the farmer within the co-op are not simply producers, but we are the owners. The decision to not allow us to sell raw milk is a rule that we agreed to when entering the co-op. Also, it is to protect the co-op itself and it’s producers. The FDA forbids the selling of raw milk to anyone unless it is tested before consumption or processing. None of us have the means to due so. So to sell raw milk without testing is breaking federal/state laws.
So why boycott the farmers co-op that puts the farmer first? OV already has the most thorough product testing and strictest animal welfare protocols out there. We have them because we are proud of the milk we produce and we want to be able to say, with confidence, that it is the best.
To boycott OV is like telling us organic farmers that you want us to stop producing organic food. If you don’t buy our products, we will go away (out of business).
I can’t see the dates of your post but I was reading your other article about Smart Balance butter and you mentioned Organic Valley butter was a better option. Since you’ve boycotted this brand, what butter brand are you using now?
I use raw butter from my local dairy farmer.