The Task Force was established in response to a decision last August by the giant French food conglomerate, Danone S.A., and its subsidiary Horizon Organic to terminate contracts with organic dairy farms in the Northeast, including 14 in Maine. The end of the contracts could leave many of the producers without a buyer and could put them at risk of closure.
In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the lawmakers wrote, “When Danone/Horizon announced their intent to end their contracts with 89 organic dairy farms in the Northeast, 27 organizations came together to create the Northeast Dairy Task Force and provide recommendations to the USDA on ways to help the organic dairy industry.
“Despite the recent announcement that Danone will be providing further assistance to impacted farmers, the underlying structural threats to organic dairy in the Northeast remain and urgent action is needed.”
The letter was signed by U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, and U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine 1st District, and Jared Golden, D-Maine 2nd District, as well as by five other members of Congress.
The letter requests that Vilsack respond to the Task Force without delay and fully utilize USDA resources and powers to implement the Task Force’s recommendations.
Since the announcement of the contracts’ termination, Danone has pushed back the effective date until Feb. 28, 2023, and pledged to provide additional “transition payment” on milk purchases from during the last six months of the agreement.