Governor Janet Mills and Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) Commissioner Amanda Beal issued the following statements applauding Organic Valley’s announcement this morning that the company will offer small Northeast Organic Family Farms a market for their milk after Horizon Organic informed them last year it intended not to renew its contract with them.
“This is tremendous and welcome news for Maine organic dairy farmers, many of whom are worried about what’s next after Horizon pulled the rug out from under them last year,” said Governor Janet Mills. “I thank Organic Valley for stepping in to help save these farms by providing them with a new market for their product. Our dairy farmers work hard every day, and I know Organic Valley will benefit from this new partnership. My administration will continue to work with our farming community, the Legislature, and the Maine congressional delegation to support our dairy farmers, build their processing capacity in the state, and ensure they have the tools they need to succeed. in the years to come.
“News last August that Horizon planned to terminate contracts with 89 New England dairies, including 14 in Maine, presented a devastating situation for these farms,” said Amanda Beal, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. “Today’s announcement from Organic Valley is really good news. The Governor and I will continue to work with our state and federal partners to meet the needs of our dairy farmers. »
In its announcement today, Organic Valley, a farmer-owned co-op, said it is offering 80 small organic family farms in the Northeast – including affected farms in Maine – a market for their produce. dairy.
After Horizon’s August 2021 announcement, the Mills administration reached out to affected farms and statewide agriculture stakeholders to explore ways to help the farms. DACF joined staff from the Maine Congressional delegation and statewide agriculture industry stakeholders, including the Maine Dairy Industry Association, Maine Organic Milk Producers, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, the Maine Farmland Trust, and Coastal Enterprises, Inc. — to form a task force that discussed short- and long-term strategies to help affected farms and support continued viability of Maine’s dairy industry.
Governor Mill and Commissioner Beal also sent letters to Horizon/Danone and USDA Secretary Vilsack encouraging additional resources and considerations for affected farms. Following a push from Governor Mills, Horizon offered modest concessions to affected farmers.
The administration also participated in regional and national conversations with other agricultural departments as well as the USDA and private industry to encourage more local and regional processing and market opportunities.
Organic Valley, based in LaFarge, Wisconsin, is the largest organic farmer-owned cooperative in the United States and one of the largest organic consumer brands in the world. Founded in 1988 to support family farms through organic farming, the cooperative represents approximately 1,700 farmers in 34 US states, Canada, Australia and the UK.