Leading Organic Dairy on Probation

The U.S. Department of Agriculture imposed significant corrective measures on the nation's largest supplier of private-label organic dairy products, after investigators uncovered deficiencies in several critical areas, including access to pasture, cattle transitioning and record-keeping. As part of a consent agreement, Aurora Organic Dairy, based in Platteville, Colo., faces a one-year

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture imposed significant corrective measures on the nation's largest supplier of private-label organic dairy products, after investigators uncovered deficiencies in several critical areas, including access to pasture, cattle transitioning and record-keeping.

As part of a consent agreement, Aurora Organic Dairy, based in Platteville, Colo., faces a one-year probationary period, during which time violations may result in revocation of organic certification, according to the USDA.

Facing criticism from organic activists, Aurora earlier this year began downsizing its herd and expanding pastureland at the company's main facility in Platteville; it will continue to do so as part of the agreement. It has further agreed to forgo renewal of organic certification at its Woodward, Colo., facility, and to implement measures to adequately document the source of its cows, as well as their transition to organic, at its Dublin, Texas, operation.

The USDA initiated its investigation of Aurora based on complaints filed in 2005 and 2006 by the Cornucopia Institute, a small-farm advocacy group, alleging insufficient access to pasture for animals. In probing the complaints, investigators also uncovered the improper transitioning of animals and a failure to maintain adequate records.

The third-party agency that certified Aurora's operations was also ordered to make changes. The Colorado Department of Agriculture will be required to increase training for enforcement of organic standards.