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The 2022 Organic Dairy Crisis: Challenges and Solutions

By Laetitia Benador

America’s appetite for organic dairy, meat, and eggs has soared in the last decade—growing on average 9 percent annually

However, lack of investment in organic supply chains has led to chronically insufficient domestic production of organic livestock feed, leaving U.S. organic farmers dependent on insecure imported supplies. Meanwhile, persistent drought in the West has restricted supplies of organic hay, leading to dangerously low availability and skyrocketing prices.

When trade disruptions, global supply chain shocks, inflation, and worsening drought were added to these pre-existing vulnerabilities, many organic farmers saw their costs of production rise above market prices. During congressional testimony in June 2022, Organic Valley reported that average costs for the 1,800 producers in their nationwide network increased by 45 percent for feed, by 14 percent for dairy processing, and by 36 percent for transportation. On behalf of organic dairies in Northern California, Straus Family Creamery reported that between January 2020 and October 2022 farms experienced 50 percent higher feed costs and 20 percent higher operating costs, resulting in costs of production for organic milk of $42+ per hundredweight, well above the average pay price range of $29–$35 per hundredweight. The confluence of multiple severe disruptions outside of producers’ control has left many operations in severe financial distress and has already forced some operations out of business.

CCOF stands with our livestock producers during this difficult time as we work together to find solutions and build a more resilient organic livestock sector. Current efforts include the following:

  • CCOF is providing small dairies with a $500 waiver on their organic certification renewal fees. Additionally, the CCOF livestock team is available to answer questions and support producers navigating their next steps. Please reach out directly to your CCOF Certification Specialist.
  • The CCOF Foundation, in partnership with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), is offering emergency relief grants of $5,000 to $20,000 for organic dairy producers in California. Certified organic dairy operators in California who can demonstrate severe economic loss are eligible to receive funding for a wide range of expenses, including increased feed and water costs, diminished grazing land, herd reduction, and more. Visit the CCOF website to apply by December 9, 2022, at 12 p.m. For more information and/or assistance, contact Larissa Hernandez at lhernandez@ccof.org or (831) 346-6324.
  • In August 2022, CCOF joined the Western Organic Dairy Farming Crisis Coalition, led by CCOF member Straus Family Creamery. The Coalition of dairy producers, feed suppliers, and agricultural organizations includes Clover Sonoma, Cowgirl Creamery, Alexandre Family Farm, Darigold (Northwest Dairy Association), Mount Rainier Creamery, Neutral, Organic West Milk, Rumiano Cheese Company, Organic Farmers Association, Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (WODPA), County of Marin, and Sonoma County Farm Bureau. The Coalition is advocating for emergency financial assistance in their public letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack. We encourage sharing this letter with organic consumers and the general public.
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