In an uncharacteristically draconian move, the Board of Directers for organic dairy co-op Organic Valley recently voted to ban its member farmers from seling raw milk direct to consumers on their own.
In addition to striking a blow to consumers who rely on these farmers for their milk, this decision forces farmers to choose between the reliability of participating in the co-op and the vastly increased profitably of selling raw milk directly to those who want it. The raw milk market is still very small, and it is unlikely that many farms could find enough buyers to sustain them if they choose the latter. If they choose the former, they are giving up not just increased profits, but independence and the ability to make their own business decisions.
Organic Valley claims economic sustainability for its members is a core goal, and yet they erode the independence and flexibility that are essential to that goal. Tell the Organic Valley Board of Directors to stop playing politics and let the farmers decide what's best for each of their businesses. Tell them to reverse the raw milk ban!
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Raw milk fetches a far better premium for farmers, adding to the diversity of their business, and thus their economic stability. While profitable, the raw milk market is also small and distinct, and it poses no real threat of competition to the Organic Valley brand. Furthermore, the responsibility for any hypothetical outbreak from raw milk would rest only with those farmers that declined to pasteurize their product. Raw milk is a separate commodity that would be neither handled by nor associated with the Organic Valley brand than thus poses no liability risk.
Organic Valley claims to put farmers first, and yet it passes a measure dealing a severe blow to their independence and economic stability. I am unable to trust or support a business that violates its own principles in this manner. There is no compelling reason to interfere with your members' business decisions to this extent, nor to interfere with consumers' ability to buy product from a farmer they trust. If indeed farmer economic sustainability is a true goal of the Cooperative, then the only viable option is to repeal the raw milk ban. Please do what's right for the farmers and the consumers both.