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RANDOLPH CENTER, Vt. -- Organic Valley/CROPP, the nation's largest independent farmer-owned organic dairy cooperative, said yesterday that its membership support services will now also include a new "Northeast Transition to Organic Fund," a financial empowerment program for dairy producers who are making the transition to organic.
"Organic Valley/CROPP is committed to working with transitioning dairy farmers in the Northeast to overcome increased organic feed costs and other difficult financial challenges during the last year of the dairy transition to organic. Our goal is to ease the burden of going organic," said Organic Valley/CROPP East Region pool coordinator Peter Miller in a statement.
The transition premiums have been made possible through a partnership between Organic Valley/CROPP and Stonyfield Farm, the provider of most of the funds. Stonyfield Farm, one of the cooperative's oldest customers, uses Organic Valley milk in all of its organic yogurt and smoothie lines.
"Because of the premium paid to organic farmers, we see organic dairy as a critical tool for keeping farms viable and land in agriculture -- not house lots," noted Stonyfield Farm president and c.e.o. Gary Hirshberg. "Helping farmers transition to organic production is a key part of our mission to support family farms and prevent the loss of farms in our region."
The transition fund's three-tier structure, which is designed to meet the needs of each phase of transition, consists of the following:
--During the first nine months of transition feeding, farmers will be paid a premium of $1 per hundredweight above their nonorganic milk pay price.
--For the last 90 days of feeding, farmers will receive a premium of $2 per hundredweight above their nonorganic milk pay price.
--For the first three months on the organic track, farmers will get $1 per hundredweight above the organic payment price.
Organic Valley provides member support services also feature hotline support; an in-house and field milk quality staff; consultant Paul Dettloff, "one of the nation's foremost authorities in natural and organic animal treatment methods"; an on-staff resources coordinator to provides member support for sourcing quality, affordable organic feed;
a certification staff to help members with all phases of the certification process; a marketing department to train farmers to participate in trade shows, consumer events, media interviews, conferences, and other outreach events; a dedicated Web site, http://www.farmers.coop; and regular communications.
The country's only independent national organic dairy cooperative and the only national organic brand that is 100-percent farmer-owned, Organic Valley/CROPP represents almost 700 farmers in 20 states. It's the top-selling organic milk in both mainstream supermarkets and natural foods outlets along the entire Eastern seaboard. Organic Valley farmers produce more than 130 organic items.