Is â€œBig Organicâ€ an oxymoron? I donâ€™t know enough to say, but the federal governmentâ€™s organic farming rules are scale-neutral; that is, size doesnâ€™t matter so long as a farm follows the regulations. My sense is that scaling up organic agriculture would surely be good for the environment. Big environmental problems, after all, demand big solutions. The trouble is, one of the nationâ€™s biggest organic dairy farms, Aurora Organic Dairy, hasnâ€™t been following the rules. Thatâ€™s the topic of todayâ€™s CNNMoney.com column.
The small-is-beautiful crowd is suspicious of companies like Aurora. Some of this is probably principled. Pressures arise to bend or break the rules when farms get too big, and when their goal is to drive the price of organics down to sell more milk to Wal-Mart or Costco. And some of the suspicion is anti-competitive. A Vermont farmer with 75 cows will find it hard to compete, price-wise, with a Colorado company managing 1,000 or more.
The little guys, in this controversy, are well-represented by a feisty, low-budget NGO called the Cornucopia Institute, which blew the whistle on Aurora.
Hereâ€™s how the column begins:
Some consumers pay $5 or $6 a gallon for organic milk, up to twice as much as the conventional kind. They’re not always getting their money’s worth.
A company that supplies milk to Wal-Mart, Costco, Target and Safeway was charged last week with selling milk labeled organic that failed to meet the national organic standards.