It is intriguing to see the current argument over organic milk. The Cornucopia Institute has filed a complaint against the USDA, complaining that “industrial-scale” dairies operated by Aurora Dairy of Boulder, Colo., is failing to meet national guidelines for organics because its cattle don’t “graze,” as required.
To me, this is a battle between philosophies and between marketing strategies. It’s centrally about money. The alleged perpetrators are seen by small producers to be stealing money from the little guys who presumably follow the rules and allow cows to graze.
The proponents of organic milk don’t frame this primarily that it is better for the consumer, except that the consumer may – or may not – see this grazing issue as important. Is it primarily important to the producers who follow the rules? I don’t know.
This seems similar to the issue of kosher production because the difference between the products would not be immediately apparent to the consumers. The difference is that kosher is voluntary and isn’t something regulated by the government. Kosher means different things to different people. Some people buy kosher with only a general sense that the certification connotes higher quality.
I think the organic battles now truly are joined and will become more interesting as they get into court battles.
It reminds me of a discussion that the North American Agricultural Journalists had at our last meeting in Washington, D.C.
One woman who is in the business of selling locally-grown produce for the Washington, D.C., area had been supportive of national organic standards. Now, as the standards were in place, she found them impractical because of the paperwork in dealing with each of the crops she sold.
Still a promoter of “organic,” she now has decided to sell her produce as “grown with organic principles.”
What is ultimately going to be important is whether these rules are important to the bulk of the organic consumers — not some small subset.