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USDA Cracks Down on Organic Standards Violations

The Department of Agriculture is suspending organic certification for Promiseland Livestock, in what some are hailing as an example of increased vigilance from food-monitoring agencies under the Obama Administration.

Promiseland had been accused of selling conventional products as organic, and when the USDA asked to see the company's records, it either didn't have them or refused to hand them over. Because Promiseland has no documentation that it is following federal organic standards, it will lose its organic certification for at least four years.

Promiseland used to supply Aurora Organic Dairy, but Aurora dropped them in 2007 because of the ongoing investigation. Nevertheless, organic food activists continue to distrust Aurora, and the Cornucopia Institute has called upon the USDA to reopen its previous investigation of that company.

This is only the second time since federal organic standards were established in 2002 that a company's organic certification has been suspended. The first occurred in 2007, in California, under the Bush Administration. In that case, however, it was not a simple lack of documentation; there was actual evidence that the company was breaking the rules.

The director of the USDA's National Organic Program recently announced that the agency was now entering the "age of enforcement."

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