Dairy Farmers Ask Danone Not to End Decades-Old Contracts

October 27, 2021—Nine organic organizations representing organic farmers and consumers delivered two petitions with 15,234 signatures asking Danone North America, owner of Horizon Organic, not to leave the northeast, which would leave 89 dairy farm families without a market.

Specifically, 13,020 people signed a national petition, while a state-focused Maine petition garnered 2,214 signatures.

The petitions are in reaction to an August 2021 change from Danone North America, wherein the company notified 89 organic dairy farm families that it would be ending their contracts and pulling out of the Northeast U.S. market, having transitioned all of its milk procurement farther west in favor of larger farms. Many of the affected farm families have been providing organic milk to Horizon Organic for decades, and were instrumental in building the brand with grass-fed family-farm organic milk.

“We have already lost many northeast family organic dairies over the past five years due to pressure from large organic dairies taking advantage of a regulatory loophole,” said Ed Maltby, Executive Director of Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA), in the press release. “This exit by Horizon Organic mimics what we see happening nationwide and leaves our rural communities without a local source of organic milk. Danone North America as a B-Corp should hold a stronger commitment to the region and the communities that provide their milk. We hope to meet with them and discuss opportunities to keep them in the Northeast region.”

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Danone North America has invested in new processing facilities along the eastern U.S. for plant-based milk, but has not invested in a dairy processing facility that would continue to serve the large Northeast organic consumer market with local organic milk. The company claims it will be saving transportation miles by procuring milk closer to its western New York dairy processing plant, but will be spending more miles trucking cartons of milk to the large Northeast consumer markets.

“Consumers are looking for organic milk from local organic farms that feed the local economy and protect the community’s soil, air, and water,” said Melody Morrell, Executive Director of Cornucopia Institute, in the press release. “B Corp companies have a social contract with their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. We believe Danone/Horizon must reconsider this mass exit from the region.”

Organic groups have requested a meeting with Danone North America to ask them to stay in the Northeast and invest in the region’s organic dairy farm families, who are contributing to the local environment and economy by running grass-based organic dairy farms. Those groups include: Northeast Organic Farmers Association of Vermont; Northeast Organic Farmers Association of New York, Inc.; Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Organic Farmers Association; National Organic Coalition; Cornucopia Institute; and Real Organic Project.