The controversy over Aurora Organic Dairy, one of the nation’s largest producers of organic milk, isn’t going away. The company is threatening to sue its NGO critics. They aren’t backing down. This could wind up in court. Their war of words is the topic of today’s Beyond the Bottom Line column at CNNMoney.com.
I met Mark Retzloff, the president of Aurora, last week at the Natural Foods Expo in Baltimore. He seems like a good guy, and has been around organics forever. Says the company did nothing wrong, that it’s reforming its practices and that its opponents are backed by small farmers who fear competition. His goal is to make organics a mass business, drive down prices and maintain standards. He feels wronged by USDA and the NGOs, particularly the Cornucopia Institute.
But Mark Kastel of Cornucopia makes an interesting point. Does a Big Organic farm, with centralized processing in Colorado, shipping to supermarkets around the U.S., really make sense? There’s nothing in the organic rules about scale, but why not try to produce food in a more localized, “distributed” way? Surely that’s better for the environment.
I’m honestly not sure what to make of this debate. I’m hoping to dig deeper into the organics business before too long for a Fortune story. Here’s how the column begins:
Mark Retzloff, a pioneer of the $16.7 billion organic food industry and president of Aurora Organic Dairy, lobbied for years for strict government regulation of organics. He got what he wanted – and then some.
Two months after Aurora, a Colorado-based company that makes store-brand organic milk for big retailers like Wal-Mart, Costco, Target and Safeway, settled U.S. Department of Agriculture allegations that its milk didn’t meet national organic standards, the war of words between Retzloff and his foes shows no sign of abating.
Retzloff is threatening to sue critics who claim that Aurora committed consumer fraud. Much to its adversaries’ dismay, Aurora didn’t pay any fines when it settled with the USDA.
You can read the rest here.