Promiseland Livestock Decertified by USDA

One of the largest organic cattle producers in the United States, Promiseland Livestock, was suspended from organic commerce, along with its owner and key employees, for four years.  The penalty was part of an order issued by administrative law judge Peter Davenport in Washington, DC on November 25.

Promiseland, a multimillion dollar operation with facilities in Missouri and Nebraska, including over 13,000 acres of crop land, and managing 22,000 head of beef and dairy cattle, had been accused of multiple improprieties in formal legal complaints, including not feeding organic grain to cattle, selling fraudulent organic feed and "laundering" conventional cattle as organic.

Promiseland became the focus of industry watchdog Cornucopia's investigation into giant factory farms, milking thousands of cows, that were allegedly operating illegally.  Promiseland sold thousands of dairy cows to giant factory dairy farms owned by Dean Foods (Horizon Organic), Natural Prairie Dairy in Texas and Aurora Dairy based in Colorado.  Aurora and Natural Prairie supply private-label, store-brand milk for Wal-Mart, Costco, Target and major supermarket chains such as HEB, Safeway and Harris Teeter.

Documents secured under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by The Cornucopia Institute indicate that the initial investigation was squashed for political reasons by Dr. Barbara Robinson, who until recently directed the USDA’s organic program.

An investigation by the Office of Inspector General at the USDA, focusing in part on the relationship between Robinson and prominent agribusiness lobbyist and lawyer Jay Friedman, was profiled  in a July 3 Washington Post story.  Friedman, in addition to representing Aurora and Dean Foods, also was the lawyer for Promiseland when they were targeted by the USDA for investigation.

The USDA’s decertification order can be viewed at: http://www.cornucopia.org/USDA/Promiseland_Judgement.pdf

    

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