Organic Valley to provide market to Horizon dairy farmers

Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 9:33 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 8, 2022 at 12:17 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Organic Valley, one of the country’s largest farmer-owned organic cooperatives, announced Tuesday it will provide a market to 80 Northeast dairy farms that were dropped by Horizon Organic last year.

Horizon said it was dropping the milk contracts with farms across the Northeast due to hauling expenses and other factors. The news put at least 28 Vermont organic dairy farms in jeopardy of shutting down.

“We are off the beaten path is what we are so we were afraid we weren’t going to get anyone else to come out here,” said George Osgood, a Corinth dairy farmer that was dropped by Horizon and one of 10 that has already signed on to the Organic Valley deal.

“We are now stepping up and saying we are offering 100% of all farmers that meet our standards to come and join the cooperative,” said Organic Valley’s Travis Forgues. He says this isn’t an immediate membership, but that the letters of intent mean they are committed to purchasing these farmers’ milk and membership before the official end of their Horizon contracts. “Let’s give people the comfort that they have a contract or a letter of intent, which is our commitment. We are not backing out of that. We are saying, ‘we are here, we are committed.’”

Of the Northeast Farms getting the agreements, there are 50 in New York, one in New Hampshire, 13 in Vermont, and 11 in Maine. The Northeast Dairy Task Force has been working to come up with a solution and released a set of recommendations in January to help the farms.

“This is what we had hoped for when we created the task force at the Agency of Ag,” said Vt. Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts. He says this is a significant organic dairy development and that while it will save over a dozen organic farms in Vermont, there is still work to do. “These contracts are the first step, but we need to build upon that.”

Tebbetts cites infrastructure upgrades, more processing in our region, and some on-farm work as items the task force identified to get milk to market. He says for the farms that don’t get contracts, the state hasn’t given up. “We want to hear from farmers if they do not have a contract yet and they are concerned about where they might be selling their milk. The Agency of Agriculture wants to hear from them and see if we can find a solution for them as well,” he said.

Back in Corinth, Osgood wants consumers to remember Horizon’s exit. “It was really good of Organic Valley to step up. As for Horizon goes, hopefully, people stop buying their products out there. If they can’t take our milk, they shouldn’t be allowed to bring their products into our stores locally,” he said.

Osgood has only worked with the Wisconsin-based company for one month but says he is excited by the new partnership.

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