Organic dairy farmers from Maine to California met recently in amid a blinding snowstorm at LaCrosse, Wis., to form a national network called the Federation of Organic Dairy Farmers. FOOD was formed by the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, the Midwest Organic Dairy Producers Association and the Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance. Combined, they represent more than 7,850 organic dairies across the country.
Then, FOOD quickly got to their business agenda, reports Ed Maltby, executive director of NODPA. Here's a quick look at the issues they'll address:
Stronger pasture requirements
They unanimously support adding additional federal regulatory language to clarify that production of organic milk requires that organic dairy animals must consume at least 30% of their food needs (dry matter intake) from pasture for the entire growing season, for no less than 120 days.
"Most regions of this country where organic milk is produced have their cows out on pasture for far longer than 120 days," says Steve Pechacek, president of the Midwest group, from Mondovi, Wis. "A key principle is to maintain the land/animal connection that's central to organic production."
USDA's National Organic Program is currently in the process of more clearly defining the current standard that requires all ruminant animals, including dairy cows, to have access to pasture. The addition of feed and time requirements will result in a verifiable nationwide standard unlike any other organic standard in the world.
Pasture is an important standard
What is obvious and natural to farmers needs to be firmly implanted within the USDA National Organic Program regulations to ensure that the organic seal remains the most reliable third party certified standard. Kathie Arnold, a Truxton, N.Y., dairy producers and certifier, notes: "In addition to no use of hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides in organic dairy production, organic consumers have made it clear that they expect and want organic dairy cows to be immersed in their natural environment—pasture."
Scientific studies have shown that higher consumption of pasture leads to elevated levels of beneficial fatty acids such as Omega 3s, CLA and vitamins such as A and E in the milk of grazed dairy cows. Those compounds are believed to help protect against such maladies as heart disease and cancer, notes Maltby. Pasture has long been called "Dr. Green" because of its health giving benefits to animals.
"Consumers expect that the organic seal on organic dairy products means that the animals have been given the opportunity to behave in a natural manner, and that the quality of the product reflects this benefit of organic production", adds Robynn Shrader, CEO of the National Cooperative Grocers Association.
For more information on FOOD, contact Ed Maltby, NODPA Executive Director, at 413-772-0444 or 413-427-7323 or by email: [email protected].
Check out the latest organic happenings on the Web at: www.nodpa.com or www.organicmilk.org