Oct 28, 2021
Pressure increases for Danone NA to keep Northeast organic dairies
Stephen Kloosterman

Four members of congress and at least nine industry groups – to say nothing of roughly 13 thousand signees of an online petition – are among those asking Danone North America to keep buying milk from a group of organic dairies in the Northeast.

Danone North America, which owns Horizon Organic, reportedly in August notified 89 organic dairy farms that their contracts would eventually be ended, and that the company’s milk procurement would shift farther west in favor of larger farms, according to a news release from the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA).

“We have already lost many northeast family organic dairies over the past five years due to pressure from large organic dairies taking advantage of a regulatory loophole. This exit by Horizon Organic mimics what we see happening nationwide and leaves our rural communities without a local source of organic milk. Danone North America as a B-Corp should hold a stronger commitment to the region and the communities that provide their milk,” Ed Maltby, executive director of NODPA, said in the news release. “We hope to meet with them and discuss opportunities to keep them in the Northeast region.”

Danone North America didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment by Organic Grower.

In addition to being certified as a B Corporation to balance “purpose and profit,” Danone North America’s international parent company was involved in a coalition for regenerative agriculture and biodiversity, named “One Planet Business for Biodiversity,” or OP2B. That coalition launched in September 2019 at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York.

Members of congress Peter Welch (D-Vermont), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Ann MclaneKuster (D-New Hampshire) and Jared Golden (D-Maine) wrote an open letter to Danone North America that it’s decision to terminate contracts must be reversed.

“Since 1999, when it purchased The Organic Cow in Tunbridge, Vt., Horizon Organic had supported the vision of small, organic farms in our region,” the lawmakers wrote in a joint letter. “These organic dairy farms have been reliable partners in building the reputation and value of the organic dairy market and have contributed substantially to the bottom line and brand of both Horizon and Danone. Each of these farms and farm families have established themselves as respected businesses, serving as both strong environmental stewards and the backbone of our rural economies.

“We ask that you choose to live the values of the B Corp commitment and reinstate the contracts of these 89 farms, who have been a force for good in their communities and a source of profit for you,” the lawmakers wrote.

A variety of organic groups joined in requesting a meeting with Danone North America to ask them to stay in the Northeast, according to the news release. Those groups include the Northeast Organic Farmers Association of Vermont, Northeast Organic Farmers Association of New York, Inc., Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Organic Farmers Association, National Organic Coalition, Cornucopia Institute and the Real Organic Project.

An online petition sponsored by the Organic Farmers Association asking Danone to “Treat family farmers with R-E-S-P-E-C-T!” had roughly 13,000 signees by Oct. 28.

Photo: Kirsten Strough/USDA

Stephen Kloosterman is the managing editor of Organic Grower.

Be sure to check out our other specialty agriculture brands