Eleven organic organizations representing organic farmers and consumers have submitted a complaint to B Lab against Danone North America. The organizations maintain that Danone North America, owner of Horizon Organic, is in violation of the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence.
The letter to B Lab, sent on November 8, 2021, was signed by the Northeast Organic Farmers Association of Vermont, Northeast Organic Farmers Association of New Hampshire, Northeast Organic Farmers Association of New York, Inc., Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Maine Organic Milk Producers, Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Organic Farmers Association, Organic Consumers Association, Cornucopia Institute, and Real Organic Project. The organizations are requesting that the B Lab conduct a full investigation.
At issue: As WholeFoods previously reported, these actions are in response 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 and transitioning its milk procurement west in favor of larger farms. Many of the affected farm families have been providing organic milk to Horizon Organic for decades.
In October, the organizations delivered petitions with 15,234 signatures asking Danone North America not to leave the northeast and leave 89 dairy farm families without a market. In their latest move, they also activated a live petition to gather signatures from organic consumers and farmers in support of the complaint, which will be submitted to B Lab every two weeks as signatures grow.
“Danone’s exit from the Northeast will devastate these families and the rural economies that depend on a thriving dairy industry,” said Kate Mendenhall, Executive Director of Organic Farmers Association, in the release. “Danone’s actions are contrary to the social commitments they made to these farms and their communities. As a B Corporation, they must be held to a higher social standard, and we call on B Lab to investigate and suspend or revoke Danone N.A.’s B Corp status until they do right by these farmers.”
The organizations also reported that the USDA has launched a task force to help the 89 affected farmers, and many of the 11 organic organizations are participating. But, the group added, it will take time to identify and build the infrastructure needed for a new market and the farmers affected will incur increased on-farm costs above the stress this exit has caused.
“In Maine, we have actively been working with our state agencies and support providers, but our farmers are suffering,” said Sarah Alexander, Executive Director of Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association (MOFGA). “These organic dairy farmers should never have found themselves in this position. As a B Corporation, Danone N.A. made a commitment to do no harm and benefit all through their products, practices, and profits. Clearly, they have violated this B Corporation commitment.”
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What’s next: Regional producer groups representing the affected farmers will be meeting with Danone North America in mid-November. The groups will request that Danone North America stay in the Northeast and invest in the organic dairy farm families that are making contributions to the local environment and local economies by running grass-based organic dairy farms.