For Organic Valley, Raw Milk Is in the Rear-View Mirror This Holiday Season

organicvalleylogoA few days ago, Organic Valley, the huge Wisconsin-based dairy cooperative, ran a “holiday season” ad on Facebook offering discount coupons of $1.50 or $2 on butter, cheese, and eggs (not $5, as the ad suggests). I guess it’s not a huge surprise that thousands of people lapped the coupons up—the coupon offer was shared nearly 2,500 times.  There were more than 400 comments, most of them thanking Organic Valley, or informing other Facebook readers that, yes, the coupons are honored in grocery stores.

I had a different reaction, based on Organic Valley’s decision six years ago to ban from its cooperative, dairy farmers who had the temerity to sell some of their dairy’s milk unpasteurized, on a private basis,  to consumers. Ever since it decided to throw its weight around, and not only force small farms into a take-it-or-leave-it situation, but do the state of Wisconsin’s dirty work in trying to limit access to raw milk, I’ve carried out my own personal boycott of the processor’s products.

I said as much at the Organic Valley Facebook ad: “Organic Valley several years ago put the squeeze on many of its farmer suppliers by cutting off those who sell raw milk directly to consumers. I’ve avoided their products since then.”

To its credit, Organic Valley responded to my dissenting comment:  “David – The family farmers who own our cooperative control their destiny and receive a stable pay price for their products. When dairy farmers join the cooperative they sign an agreement that stipulates all milk must be sold to the cooperative for distribution by the cooperative. In our cooperative, decisions are not made in a top-down fashion. Instead, farmer committees are formed to address topics ranging from animal husbandry practices to pasturing requirements to off-farm milk sales. In the case of our farmers selling raw milk, it was very difficult for our farmer committees, dairy farmer executive committee and farmer board to choose the path they did.We realize that raw milk is important to you and to many other consumers, but this is not the business that we are in. Our business is selling certified organic milk with a regional model of production and distribution.”

In other words, it’s our way or the highway.

I responded by explaining the difficult economic problems facing many small dairies, that “raw milk sales are crucial to the economic survival of many dairy farmers, simply because the prices they receive from you and other processors are so low. Selling raw milk directly to consumers (and not in direct competition with OV) gives them an important opportunity to earn much needed income, while still supplying OV. You have used your financial muscle to deprive many farmers of that opportunity.”

Not surprisingly, that ended the discussion. But the exchange got me wondering how things have worked out for small dairies in Wisconsin, known as America’s “dairy state,” under the restricted competition model promoted by Organic Valley and other processors Not so well, it turns out. The state continues to lose 4% or more of its dairy herds each year, as it has done for the last 40 years. The only good news, if you want to call it that, is that the bleeding has slowed some—instead of losing 600 to 1,000 herds annually, Wisconsin is “only” losing about 400 each year the last few years. How much of the slowing is a function of the fact that there is a smaller base of 9,000-plus dairies? Who knows.

What’s clear is that Wisconsin, whether ruled by Democrats or Republicans, continues to stick it to its dairy farmers, especially those seeking desperately needed income opportunities by selling raw milk. What’s also clear is that Organic Valley’s business model continues to hum along, unfettered by such inconveniences as free enterprise. Forcing dairies into a particular dairy distribution arrangement is a great model for Organic Valley….until Wisconsin eventually runs out of dairies.

38 comments to For Organic Valley, Raw Milk Is in the Rear-View Mirror This Holiday Season

  • Mark Mcafee Mark Mcafee

    David,

    In even bigger news, OV just made a deal with the devil and outsourced its marketing and distribution to Deans Foods…aka Whitewave Horizon. Yes….horizon now gets its organic milk from OV, and Horizon does all of the sales side.

    If you now count OV and Horizon as one organization because of their strategic organic mega merger….that makes OPDC the third ranked organic brand for fluid organic milk in the whole USA ( spins data ). OPDC being the only raw brand in the top ten organic dairy brands. This just shows how raw milk is doing in the 6th largest economy in the whole world. Wisconsin is eating dust in the rear view mirror of dairy progress. They are losing a dairy per day. California is losing a dairy per week.

    What can I say….raw milk is a best friend of both farmers and consumers. Merry Christmas to all and to some raw milk and cookies.

  • Merry Xmas

    Get over it David. OV’s cooperative committee made a decision on behalf of their members. They are satisfied with the decision, farmer-members are satisfied with the decision (and still in business, by the way), and the vast majority of OV customers are satisfied with the decision. OV’s cooperative isn’t improved by exposing the organization to the risk of various members accidentally poisoning some kids or old folks with raw milk and getting their butts sued off and a lot of bad press. Everything isn’t about you David. Apparently your vindictive boycott of OV hasn’t crippled them yet. What’s the holdup Chief?

  • Joseph Heckman

    Two years ago on an organic farm tour, our tour guide said that WI had 800 certified organic dairy farms. That sounded like a surprising large number for organic. I would be like to know if the ones most going out of business are the organic or the conventional dairies.

  • Joe C.

    Based on the comment that Organic Valley made, it doesn’t sound to me that they are saying “it’s our way or the highway.” I simply take it to mean that their business sells pasturized milk, and if they are going to purchase milk from another farmer, they want to receive it in the condition they plan to sell it in (pasturized). It simply makes less work for Organic Valley. I have a small business that I run (not a farm), and if I can have someone else do extra work for me so I can do less, I often do that. It seems like a simple business policy they have, and if they choose to have that policy, as a business, they are free to have that. It doesn’t seem like an attack on raw milk. It seems like it’s just a business policy to make their business run more efficiently, which seems fine to me. I personally drink raw milk along with my 2-year old daughter (my wife, in general, doesn’t like to drink any milk at all, whether it’s pasturized or raw, which is fine). We drive from Delaware to Pennsylvania to buy raw milk from a business that sells PA certified raw milk, which is also USDA certified organic (sold legally). The business we buy from has certain business practices and policies they follow. They choose their policies and procedures (which includes certifying their milk with the state of PA Department of Agriculture and the USDA). I buy from them, because they follow these policies. I may pay more than if I bought milk from a co-op, but I personally prefer the assurance of knowing that they have taken the extra steps to be certified. The products sold are dictated by what the market demands. So those are just a few of my thoughts and perspectives these issues.

    • Do the small farmers pasteurize the milk before they sell it to OV?

    • Joe C., the small farmers are meeting all of Organic Valley’s requirements when they are selling their milk to Organic Valley—so they aren’t making extra work for Organic Valley. What Organic Valley is doing is forbidding their contract farmers from selling their “milk unpasteurized, on a private basis, to consumers.” Wisconsin allows raw milk sales on-farm, direct to consumers. These direct sales give WI dairies a much-needed revenue stream. However, Organic Valley has decreed that none of its suppliers may sell their own raw milk, on their own farm. A small farmer must choose between selling raw milk on his or her own farm, or supplying Organic Valley. This is a purely protectionist measure on the part of Organic Valley.

  • Jim

    Last month Organic Valley got into bed with Dean Foods for processing and distribution.
    https://www.organicvalley.coop/newspress/statement-organic-valley-and-dean-foods/

    • Joseph Heckman

      HTST pasteurization does not make milk safer, reference: Responding to Bioterror Concerns by Increasing Milk Pasteurization Temperature Would Increase Estimated Annual Deaths from Listeriosis
      (Stasiewicz et al., 2014 Journal of Food Protection) Quoting from the article: “Conservative estimates of the effect of pasteurizing all fluid milk at 82 C rather than 72 C are that annual listeriosis deaths from consumption of this milk would increase from 18 to 670, a 38-fold increase”
      (page 703) “These changes to the potential for outgrowth have been calculated to increase the risk of death from listeriosis due to consumption of pasteurized fluid milk by approximately 40-fold. Such an increase would have an appreciable public health impact if all milk in the United States were processed according to the increased pasteurization temperature based on the fact that milk is estimated to be responsible for approximately 18 listeriosis deaths per year in the United States.”

  • Gordon Watson

    I disagree with you that : “You [ OV] have used your financial muscle to deprive many farmers of that opportunity.” ….the decision by Organic Valley (as you’ve set out) suits its member owners. They don’t owe any kind of moral duty to accommodate someone who wants to compromise their business model. Realistically = if one member of OV were allowed to straddle the policy = i.e. selling its milk into the pool, meanwhile selling some raw milk off to the side too = and someone did get sick from that raw milk, such an incident would taint the entire brand. As long as a dairy which can find a way to deliver REAL MILK to those who prefer it, is free to have a go, then Organic Valley is not at fault.

    What comes through to me From 20 years’ paying attention to this issue : is : farmers who learn how to do the marketing of their products, survive and thrive. Those who don’t, consign themselves to poverty consciousness … price-takers, rather than price-makers. If you cannot step up and demand the price you need, and ought to get, then quit subsidizing anyone else. Most farmers don’t want to do the sales thing, as well. The sooner a small farmer decides what he and she can do, well, the better…. or else the winds of time + chance will send you somewhere you hadn’t planned on.

    Part of the genius of Mark MacAffee and his team, was, actualizing the old maxim in the advertising biz. = “the more you tell, the more you sell”. The Campaign for REAL MILK is, simply, wrapping more and better information around the product. Then getting out on the front-lines and listening to feedback from the customers. I love = putting REAL MILK in the hands / mouthes of a generation who has never tasted it : watching their expression, is a lot of fun! In one sentence : The slow-motion train wreck of Big Dairy in America, is the Soviet model failing : bigger is not always better.

    • David Gumpert David Gumpert

      Technically and legally speaking, Organic Valley is likely guilty of something known as restraint of trade–strongarming suppliers to give up outside, and unrelated, sales opportunities. It’s illegal under America’s antitrust laws. But because the dairy industry has so much clout, the government has pretty much given up trying to enforce violations.

  • Carolyn

    we sometimes get raw milk from a small dairy upstate. my boyfriend has volunteered there and while working along side the farmer learned of their history. they were conventional dairy farmers with 3000 cows but were always in debt, due to the low prices they were paid for their milk coupled with the constantly changing infrastructure mandated by the large milk companies that bought their milk.
    they sold their herd and closed. in considering what to do next, they thought about starting over with a small herd, raising the cows organically and selling their milk to large organic milk producers. they went to visit the large eastern seaboard organic milk seller and while they were there, the company ran out of organic milk and made the decision to just put conventional milk in the organic bottles because “who would know?”\
    the dairy farmer, who is a man of great integrity, left in disgust and would not contract with this company. they decided instead to produce raw milk and sell it directly to the consumer. he also told my boyfriend that he had at one time purchased at auction conventional cows, thinking he would transition them off antibiotics and grain feed and raise them organically. they all died. they were weak stock, bred simply to make tons of milk but not suited to live without pharmaceutical crutches.
    he also said that when he was a conventional dairy farmer, he wouldn’t drink his own milk. his place was too big and he couldn’t personally keep an eye on his operation. by his own admission, the milk was “dirty.” his dairy was rarely inspected and then only in the most cursory fashion, just to comply with federal paperwork regulations.
    now that he is a raw dairy farmer with about 30 cows, he is inspected monthly and the regulators go over everything with a fine tooth comb, looking for anything to hang him on. he maintains a scrupulous operation, has more demand than he can meet, has no debt, and is quite famous, having been interviewed by PBS.
    i tell this story to point out the lack of honor in large companies. organic is a market for them, not a moral imperative and if they can put cheaper conventional milk into bottles labeled organic and charge the unwitting consumer more for it, that’s better for the bottom line.
    i have no doubt that Organic Valley has paid a PR person to put a good spin on their strong arming of small dairy farmers and david, you are right to boycott them and to point out and make public their hypocrisy

    • Ken Conrad Ken Conrad

      I would never by replacement stock at an auction conventional or otherwise. unless it’s a herd dispersal. My preference is to search out and buy bred heifers direct from the farmer.

  • I just moved to WI. Went to the store today to buy some Kerrygold Butter. I was told that it is no longer legal to sell it here. Just tried to google more information about this. Not much luck so far. What is going on?

  • Mark Mcafee Mark Mcafee

    I posted last night….but some how it was lost in e-space and never was published here.

    When OV crawled and snuggled into bed with Deans Foods, Whitewave, Horizon last month, that signaled that there was no longer any separation between the two of them. Horizon agreed to buy only from OV and OV agreed that Horizon would do all of their marketing and distribution. That grand move….mooooved OPDC to take over the third ranked brand of organic milk in the USA. None of the rest of the ranked brands are raw!! OPDC does this miracle with interstate commerce bans, a warning label and sales just inside of CA.

    Tells you a little something about raw, USDA organic, local, family based, RAWMI and consumer connected!! Merry Christmas, don’t forget to leave some raw milk and cookies out for santa.

  • Mark Mcafee Mark Mcafee

    FYI. All dairies sell their milk to the processor in raw form. They never pasteurize it prior to shipment…. Never ever. That is how the FDA has made such a big deal out of raw milk safety. The FDA has intentionally confused the public into thinking there was only one raw milk out there and it was deadly dangerous.

    There is raw milk for pasteurization and there is raw milk for human cinsumption. Completely different products. Different standards and different everything literally everything is different!!

    FYI … OPDC was the first OV dairy to be kicked out of the OV coop back in 2002. They kicked us out because OPDC products were competing against OV processed dead organic products at hundreds of retail stores and winning shelf space like crazy. OV does not like raw because raw organic kicks their butts all day long when provided side by side on a shelf at three times the price with consumer choice!

  • The larger issue is the consolidation of milk production and its easy mobility to global markets. What would happen if there was a national policy limiting the size/amount/distance of milk production (NOT state lines)? Milk production would become a regional industry.

    • Ken Conrad Ken Conrad

      Indeed Edward, Regional is what it used to be!
      Unfortunately, thanks to cheap food policies, germ focused policies and in the name of so-called “efficiency” the dairy/food industry has become highly centralized and monopolized.

      If history is any indication of what is to come, people are going to have to suffer ill health and hunger on a mass scale before any meaningful change ever occurs. I think that is what sets North Americans apart from the rest of the world… The majority of North Americans lack a genuine appreciation for quality living food.

  • Mark Mcafee Mark Mcafee

    Pasteurization intolerance..aka Lactose intolerance and milk allergies are the far greater threats to conventional retail milk products than any consolidation theories. Retail sale of conventional fluid pasteurized milk is dying its own death. Just look at the sales data. Losing 2% market share per year says it all. That’s exactly why OV bans all competition from raw dairy products. It can not stand the comparative heat in the kitchen when UP or UHT organic is compared to delicious digestible non allergenic asthma healing organic grass fed raw milk. Shelf life….verses Gut Life.

    The math is simple….raw wins. So they keep the ban on competition tight for fear of fair raw competition further eroding fake dead organic milk consumption and market share.

    • Ken Conrad Ken Conrad

      Mark,
      I agree… However, your analogy is incomplete and fails to address the true cause. With some individuals their milk intolerance and allergies are so severe that raw milk is problematic as well.

      What really irks me is this knee jerk reaction to blame intolerances and allergies on foods such as dairy product and peanuts etc. Indeed the adulteration of such foods contribute to and exacerbate the problem, they are not as I see it the primary cause.

      With the growing number of food intolerances and allergies, schools and day care centers respond by restricting the foods deemed responsible, such as peanut products and in some cases dairy products. Rarely is it considered that the injection of peanut oil, and dairy derivatives (lactose, bovine casein and lactalbumins) via vaccines, as probable causes. Some of the vaccines that use or contain the above ingredients include BCG, Hib, influenza, Meningococcal, MMR and Polio. When the above food ingredients are injected into an infant’s body bypassing natural censoring mechanisms is it any wonder that allergies and sensitivities are increasing???

      Concern expressed by many over the years, (doctors and scientists included), that injecting common food ingredients into the human body such as foreign proteins and fatty oils as the true cause of hypersensitivity, a.k.a. intolerances and allergies, is where we should be directing our attention. Unfortunately, TPTB do not want to head down that path just as they do not want to head down that path when it comes to autism.

    • Joseph Heckman

      The demand for raw milk grows regardless of the opposition.
      From what I am hearing from opponents to legalizing raw milk sales in New Jersey is that they believe that an outbreak would hurt the market for pasteurized milk. Yet if ever there is an outbreak (an even when there is none) everyone is ordered to drink pasteurized milk. And even when there are outbreaks from pasteurized dairy, people are still ordered to only consume pasteurized.
      Will N.J. bill allowing raw milk sales cut into Lehigh Valley business?
      http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/warren-county/index.ssf/2016/12/dimaio_sponsors_bill_to_sell_r.html
      WHAT RAW MILK SALES WOULD DO FOR NEW JERSEY
      http://www.realmilk.com/commentary/raw-milk-sales-new-jersey/

  • blesse\'d are the cheese makers

    If OV contracts with a smaller dairy to purchase milk, it seems to me you have a willing buyer and a willing seller entering into a contractual relationship. That is a contract freely made between two parties in an alleged free market society. If part of the agreement is that the small dairy not sell raw milk to retail customers at the farm, then it seems to me the small dairy has a choice — either sign the contract with OV and take whatever OV dishes out or go into the raw-for-retail business as a full time venture and work at developing your own market. (I guess the third choice would be to sign on with OV and “bootleg” raw milk on the side — but that would be breach of the contract subjecting them to monetary sanctions). This same paradigm exists with DFA — “We will pay you what we tell you we will pay you,” yet dairy farmers willingly sign on with DFA and sell themselves into involuntary servitude because of the fear related to jumping out there on their own.

    This may sound harsh, but this is how the market works. I have worked with many dairymen and one of the things I find most fascinating about them as a group is their collective level of stubbornness. I have witnessed dairymen who have signed up with the Co Op and then whine and complain about the way they are treated by the Co Op — all the while the Board of Directors for the Co Op are flying around in Lear Jets. Yet these same dairymen won’t change their business model even when they see a “renegade” dairyman go out there and start his own raw for retail enterprise — and make it successful with a relatively small herd of animals.

    McAfee had the right idea. He went out there and created his own market in California. From what I have seen, he has done a great job building his market share for raw milk, to a large degree on his terms.

    In my view, instead of complaining about the “plight” of the small dairies who are being run over by OV and the like, these small dairies need to see the writing on the wall and go out there and develop their own market. It can be done. The question is whether they have the will to do it.

    Whatever the case, we do NOT need to run to the government to enact some sort of regulations to “level the playing field” for these small dairy farmers. They need to take the reins away from the Co Ops and OV and become responsible for their own destiny. They need to get involved in their local political scene and try to influence their local and state elected officials to abolish regulations that favor Big Dairy.

    Government is not the answer. Government is the problem.

    Have yourself a merry little Christmas . . .

    • David Gumpert David Gumpert

      Cheesemaker, key phrase in your comment is “alleged free market society.” We actually have pretty free markets in many industries (sellers can take the highest prices from among dozens or even hundreds or thousands of potential buyers). In some markets, though–the milk market prime among them– the system is rigged. I’m referring to monopolistic or oligarchic markets, where there is no true free marketplace, because a few corporations control all the sales.

      This anti-competitive problem, or restraint of trade, is compounded by the fact that many of the Organic Valley dairies are in Wisconsin and other states that essentially prohibit raw milk sales to the public. So, Organic Valley can add even more force to its restrictive contracts by essentially cutting off any sales of milk for processing (since there is only one processor in many regions), so that dairies lose their Grade A dairy licenses. I wrote about some situations involving small dairies back when OV first indicated its policy change.
      http://www.davidgumpert.com/its-farmer-vs-farmer-as-organic-valley-and-other-co-ops-bar-dairies-from-selling-raw-milk-consumers-to-rescue

      Mark McAfee has done an admirable job of marketing his dairy’s milk in a hostile environment, but it’s important to remember his environment has been many times friendlier than markets in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and a number of other states. I find it difficult as well to understand why dairies in these places don’t organize for better treatment; all I can imagine is that they are either too trusting of the existing power-market structure, or too afraid to take meaningful action.

      • blesse\'d are the cheese makers

        Yes. I agree that the dairy “system” is a rigged game. When you have folks out there like Michael Taylor (thank God he’s gone now) and John Sheehan on the government side of the equation (FDA), doing the bidding of Big Dairy, it’s a wonder we are able to slip through with any meaningful “real dairy” products without being regulated to death.

        However, as you note, to some degree, this is a state by state proposition. Wisconsin, of course, is so far down the rabbit hole with Big Dairy, I would be surprised if the market climate in that state will ever be small dairy friendly, at least in the near future.

        I remember going through Wisconsin on my way to visit a diary southwest of Madison a couple of years back in the summer. There were fields and fields of corn, soybeans and a few other crops, all nice and green and all with the Monsanto signs at the end of the rows. Upon arriving at my destination dairy, I asked the dairyman if Monsanto owns Wisconsin. He replied, “Yes, and we don’t know how to break out of the cycle.” So . . . as Salatin has pointed out . . . it has to start with weaning off the chemical based feed crop program or the rest of it doesn’t have a prayer.

        So — as long as you have the current system in place as you do in Wisconsin, you are definitely swimming upstream to try the small raw dairy route. Might consider moving to another state . . .?

        As far as your last comment is concerned, it’s a tough call. I’d say that most of them are too afraid to take meaningful action. However, when things are going good for the dairies, the dairymen tend to believe the good times are here to stay, only to be duped into the next cycle of low prices. The commodity market is not the place to grow, so, you have to decide who you are and what market you want to be in.

  • Emma Gardner

    Question: Do WI farmers require any special licences/permits in order to sell raw milk direct to consumers?

    • David Gumpert David Gumpert

      Wisconsin farmers can only sell direct to consumers via food clubs, and even then, they are taking risk. Vernon Hershberger established the precedent when he was acquitted by a jury of violating Wisconsin’s trick anti-raw-milk laws, but technically, that decision applies only to him. To my knowledge, no other farmers selling via food clubs have been bothered.

  • Mark Mcafee Mark Mcafee

    Cheese maker….

    Stubbornness is one of the behaviors that I have seen in so many conventional and organic dairymen. There is one other trait that is even worse….that is their quantum failure to cooperate or collaborate with fellow dairymen. This is not stubbornness. This is blind selfishness thinking and hoping that low milk prices will take the other guy out and leave their operations to reign in the golden years of those that survive the dairy culture and their version of highway to hell….or roller coaster to hell. You pick.

    If all the dairymen would collaborate….they could establish a sustainable price for farm gate in less than a week, and turn off the farm tank spigot and dump milk until the price rose to that number!!! I have tried so many times, I have spoken at the NFU and spoken to the NFU emergency dairy commitee meetings……they as a group are scared, leaderless followers. They refuse to lead. They refuse to claim their ground and stand their ground for themselves as a group. That’s why I sleep well at night. It is very much their personal problem and not mine. I have tried and tried. Instead, the dairies plead for a USDA cash handout and dairy welfare. The morcels they get would not feed a starving church mouse.

    A normal response to deep economic pain or unfair treatment should be collective rebellion and smart decisive action!! That’s not the way of the American dairymen. Instead they quietly file bankruptcy , sell or butcher their herds and in CA, they plant almonds.

    My consciousness is clear. When you try as hard as I have my fellow farmer with a great answer…but to no avail, it is their problem.

  • Richard Barrrett

    David, the war or Raw Milk verses Pasteurized rages on. To gain more ground and to move us medically and scientifically forward, I would like you to write another book for 2017. RAW MILK VS. PASTEURIZED Medical Reports Revealed! Name the people, hospitals, State, dates, medical condition of before and after raw milk consumption. When you present 100’s of actual cases from Doctors to Doctors, who will take notice ( all the medical, media, consumers suffering from pasteurized milk)? Crohn’s Disease Association in Canada would like to see the Scientific evidence of Raw Milk. Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year to all from Calgary, Alberta, Canada

  • Ken Conrad Ken Conrad

    Just take a gander north of your boarder where supply management for the last 60 years has been the order of the day; where dairy farmers overcame their fear and or stubbornness in order to organize for better treatment and challenge “the existing power-market structure”… and then ask yourself… has it truly made a difference for the better?

    With the inception of the dairy autarky in Canada during the late 1960s, there were nearly 140,000 dairy farms… Today, there are fewer than 12,000, and their numbers continue to decline by a few hundred every year. Back then, the quota required to produce milk was handed out free of charge to existing dairy farmers today the price of quota ranges between $25,000 – $42,500 per cow depending on the province.

    Indeed, there is a lot of “weaning off” going to have to occur before any meaningful change can occur and it doesn’t just include the discontinuing of the chemical based feed crop programs!

  • Pete

    It hasn’t gone well for OV farmers. Many dairymen have left them for other processors. I consistently hear negative things about OV from farmers. And their pay price is one of the lowest, if not the lowest, of all the organic processors.

    They also keep talking about tight demand and having too much milk at the same time organic milk sales are up and other processors are actively taking new producers.

    As I recall, the big deal for OV was not being able to handle variable milk pickup volumes. But other processors have no problem with that. I really think it was just an anti-competitive move made out of envy.

  • Mark Mcafee Mark Mcafee

    OV has had east verses west issues and was not able to adjust to different needs for different areas of the USA. Years ago, whole regions left OV to create their own coops and set their own farm gate prices. Unfortunately, even the new regional coops get it. The farmers still want some one else to create the markets and bring the value. That just does not work very well. Value is created by consumer connection, nutritionally special products with true immune system enhancement experienced by the consumer including non allergenic and easily digestible products. This does not lend itself well to UHT and UP products.

  • Scott Freeman

    David,
    Just finished reading the January 2017 Acres USA interview with Jim Thomas. It presents a scary picture of some of the technology coming, gene drives, nanotechnology and synthetic biology. This would be a good place for some investigative journalism from a trusted source (you). With the raw milk topic slowing down, might you have some time toward this? The mergers and acquisitions among the big tech companies is also frightening. The interview offered these websites: etcgroup.org, synbiowatch.org and geoengineeringmonitor.org for more information.

  • Mark Mcafee Mark Mcafee

    It is still early for this report….but it is for sure, so I will share. I have just been formally asked to present at the 113th annual National Farmers Uniion convention being held in San Diego in March of 2017. The subject will be all about creating market systems for dairies that lesd to the creating sustainable business outcomes….

    For the big guys it will be farmer centered, farmer mandated cooperation amongst each other to control supply and set rational prices and how to stop being unpaid slaves to processors., aka…turn off the farm tank spigot until prices are sustainable. No more reliance on farm bill handouts or farmer welfare checks. The future must be consumer and market driven. The future must be based on collaboration, no more BST, cooperation and less about canabalistic greed.,

    For the organic guys….it will be more of the same. Consumer driven, farmer centered, supply management where regional coops set the prices but also control the supply.

    For the really driven and willing…..it will be brand building, consumer connected high value raw milk!!!

    The dairy community is searching for an answer right now. I am going to provide my vision of a truly bright future for American dairies regardless of size or niche served. That should be interesting.

    I already know that dairymen can not wrap their brains around this concept….and would rather go bankrupt than cooperate with other dairymen to create a bright future. The solutions are fairly simple…actual implementation is not a cow or dairy problem, it is a human problem.

    We will see how this is all received. For sure one thing….no money will come from governemnt. Governemnt will be cashless starting in Febraury 2017. Lower taxes, with massive additional spending. We are really screwed.

  • Karen

    I’ve lived in 3 states the last 10 years (Michigan, Wisconsin, and California) and it has been interesting seeing the differences in raw milk and state control. We are back in WI now and just last year our farmer left OV for another processor. I don’t believe he would have had another organic choice a few years ago. With OV’s support of the GMO bill and their decision to not allow our neighboring farmers to sell To anyone but them, I haven’t bought OV for years. So I do end up paying more for a different company’s organic cream now that our natural food store finally started giving us a choice (it was only OV for years).

    I really don’t see why a farmer can’t have an extra cow or two to sell organic raw milk on the side. It makes such a difference to the survival of family farms. It has been going on here in WI for hundreds of years. My dad got raw milk from my uncle’s farm and my grandparents got milk from a family farm also. These farms sent their raw milk to the processor, but family and friends picking up milk was a normal thing. it is sad to drive through our countryside and see so many old farms with barns that look like they could topple over with the next storm. My boys always wonder with so many family farms not producing, and the population growing, where is all our food coming from? Well I know where my milk, eggs, and cream are coming from…NOT organic valley and from a local farmer if possible.

    To the past comment about Kerrygold butter not being allowed to be sold in WI….that seems to have happened in the past two years. One store stopped carrying it and said they weren’t allowed to because “it wasn’t inspected by the state of WI”. I found it to be interesting that our state demands that we can only buy butter that they deem fit. I either make my own butter from raw cream I obtain, or I get it from CA or Oregon through my natural food co-op.

    • David Gumpert David Gumpert

      Karen, I think the big problem is that Organic Valley hates competition. All those “extra cow or two” for raw milk to be sold on the side added up to significant competition for OV, and so they did away with it, as best they could–by using brute force. There are still lots of farmers selling raw milk in Wisconsin, but you are correct, OV and the state make it as tough on them as possible.

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