Danone North America, owner of Horizon Organic has failed to respond to the northeast organic farm organizations who met with them on November 18 to make specific requests of Danone to repair the damage that leaving the entire Northeast region will have on the 89 organic dairy farm families and their rural communities.
On October 26, nine organic organizations delivered two petitions with 15,234 signatures from organic farmers and consumers asking Danone North America, owner of Horizon Organic, to take responsibility for the economic devastation they have created in the northeast by cutting contracts with 89 organic dairy families and discontinuing operations in the region. Danone North America is one of the largest B Corporations and thus has committed to putting people over profits- a commitment this corporate decision directly violates.
On November 18, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Inc., Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, and Organic Farmers Association met with Danone North America executives to outline the petition requests including two options the company could take to rectify the negative impact on the Northeast region and violation of their B Corporation commitment.
The first option presented asked Danone to stay in the Northeast and invest in a processing plant that would make their supply chains more sustainable and reduce truck miles. “This was our preferred option,” says Grace Oedel, Executive Director, NOFA-VT. “Horizon Organic has been in the Northeast region for over two decades and has a long-term relationship with all the organic farm organizations and our farmer-members. We want them to stay and invest here.”
The alternative option the group presented was for Danone North America/ Horizon Organic to leave the northeast but financially invest in the region, providing necessary support for the transitions the 89 dairy families are facing. The group asked Danone to give significant severance pay to all 89 dairy farmers who will either be forced into early retirement or will be required to make costly changes to their farms to be picked up by another company, totaling $15M. This second request also asked Danone to provide a $25M investment towards a new organic dairy processing plant in New England. “A new processing plant will cost approximately $50M,” explains Sarah Alexander, Executive Director of MOFGA. “So, Danone investing in the food security of one of the largest organic consumer markets will allow other outside investment to rebuild the necessary dairy infrastructure to support dairy farming in the region.”
Danone has ignored both options and failed to respond to the organic producer groups who have been managing the on-the-ground crisis Danone created. In the November meeting, Danone executives explained that three years of running analytics on their spreadsheets directed them to say goodbye to the 89 organic dairy families who have worked continuously throughout the pandemic to maintain Danone’s production and support increased corporate earnings. “The lack of empathy and responsibility to fix this organic dairy crisis is despicable,” says Ed Maltby, Executive Director of NODPA. “Danone North America is a $500M+ company with the financial resources to do right by these farmers. Instead of running spreadsheets for three years, they could have been strategizing on how to rebuild the necessary processing infrastructure to support their New England dairies now and into the future. Their actions in the Northeast will be remembered by dairy farmers and consumers nationwide.”
While the producer groups hope Danone will uphold its B Corporation social commitments and step forward to take responsibility for the dairy crisis they have created, they are shocked the company has ignored farmers and the region so blatantly. The group encourages consumers to buy directly from local organic dairy farmers and processors. With so much corporate consolidation in the organic sector, we must find ways to rebuild our local food system infrastructure, so farmers regain control of their hard work and healthy food products that consumers continue to want at increasing rates. Danone proves that corporations will choose profits over people every time- B Corporation seal or not.
Background on Organic Dairy in New York
In August 2021, Horizon Organic/Danone announced its decision to terminate 89 contracts with small organic dairy producers across the Northeast, including 46 in New York State. Between July and November 2021, Maple Hill Creamery, another prominent grass-fed organic processor announced it will be terminating 46 contracts with producers throughout the state between this month and May 2022. These cancellations, although larger in scale than previously seen, are not without precedent and are part of a larger trend of consolidation in the organic dairy sector. However, NY remains a leading producer of organic dairy. NY is home to about 700 certified organic milk producers (more than any other state), with over half certified by NOFA-NY, and NY ranks 4th in terms of the quantity of organic milk produced. With over 386 million pounds of organic milk produced in 2019, NY accounted for over $120 million in sales, 7.7% of nationwide sales that year. Read our 2021 NY Organic Dairy factsheet
Founded in 1983, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) is the premier statewide organization dedicated to organic agriculture. NOFA-NY provides education and outreach to farmers, consumers, and gardeners; advocates for a fair food system at the state and federal levels; and is the largest USDA-accredited organic certifier in New York State. Learn more at www.nofany.org.