Governor Mills Applauds Organic Valley’s Commitment to Save Maine Dairy Farms Dropped by Horizon Organic Last Year
Augusta, ME (STL.News) Governor Janet Mills and Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) Commissioner Amanda Beal issued the following statements applauding an announcement from Organic Valley this morning that the company will offer small Northeast organic family farms a market for their milk after Horizon Organic notified them last year it intended not to renew its contract with them.
“This is outstanding and welcome news for Maine’s organic dairy farmers, many of whom have been worried sick about what comes next after Horizon pulled the rug out from underneath them last year,” said Governor Janet Mills. “I thank Organic Valley for stepping up to help save these farms by giving them a new market for their product. Our dairy farmers work hard every single day, and I know that Organic Valley will benefit from this new partnership. My Administration will continue working with our agricultural community, the Legislature, and Maine’s Congressional Delegation to support our dairy farmers, build up their in-state processing capacity, and make sure they have the tools they need to succeed for years to come.”
“The news last August that Horizon planned to terminate its 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. “This announcement from Organic Valley today is welcome news indeed. The Governor and I will continue working with state and federal partners to address the needs of our dairy farmers.”
In its announcement today, Organic Valley, a farmer-owned cooperative, said it is offering 80 small Northeast organic family farms – including impacted farms in Maine – a market for their dairy.
After Horizon’s announcement in Augusta 2021, the Mills Administration reached out to impacted farms and statewide agriculture stakeholders to explore ways to assist the farms. DACF joined with staff from Maine’s Congressional Delegation and with statewide agriculture industry stakeholders – including the Maine Dairy Industry Association, Maine Organic Milk Producers, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Maine Farmland Trust, and Coastal Enterprises, Inc,— to form a working group that discussed both short- and long-term strategies to help the affected farms and support the ongoing viability of Maine’s dairy industry.
Governor Mill and Commissioner Beal also sent letters to both Horizon/Danone and USDA Secretary Vilsack encouraging additional resources and considerations be made for the impacted farms. Following a push from Governor Mills, Horizon offered modest concessions to the impacted farmers.
The Administration has also been participating in regional and national conversations with other agricultural departments along with the USDA and private industry to encourage more local and regional processing and market opportunities.
Organic Valley, based in LaFarge, Wisconsin, is the largest farmer-owned organic cooperative in the U.S. and one of the world’s largest organic consumer brands. Founded in 1988 to sustain family farms through organic farming, the cooperative represents approximately 1,700 farmers in 34 U.S. states, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.