Revoked Midwest farm allegedly sold 150,000 bushels of fake “organic” corn
Published: January 29, 2019
Category: Organic Fraud, The Organic & Non-GMO Report Newsletter
By Dan McGovern, Sustainable Food News
A 600-acre organic corn operation has been kicked out of the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) after its certifier alleged that it sold nearly 150,000 bushels of corn as “organic” when it was not.
Haines Family Farm in Sigourney, Iowa was issued a notice of noncompliance—containing five separate noncompliances—on October 1 from its certifier, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS). After it received rebuttals to the noncompliances, IDALS issued a notice of proposed revocation on November 5.
“We believe that information obtained from inspections, laboratory reports of samples taken from your organic fields, documents that you have submitted, and reports obtained from third parties, suggests willful intent to violate the National Organic Program regulations,” read the notice of proposed revocation to Mark and Trisha Haines from the IDALS organic program administrator, Maury Wills.
One of the noncompliances detailed how records of organic corn sales from the Haines to its buyers, which were obtained by IDALS, appeared to show that the Haines “sold more corn as ‘organic’ than the quantity of organic corn that you have produced.”
“Given the multitude of rising concerns discovered this year, we contacted OEFFA (Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association), the organic certifier of your grain buyer, Ozark Organics. We asked them to provide a summary of organic corn purchased from you from June 1, 2017 [when Haines’ OSP reported 581 acres of organic corn], to current,” the IDALS said in the notice. “The information they provided does not match the information you provided to our inspectors.”
IDALS said in its notice that it obtained additional information regarding 2016 and 2017 sales of Haines’ organic corn since the October noncompliance was issued. The additional information included reports from four buyers that Haines sold 2016 corn to as “organic”:
“Based on that quantity of acres stated above and the total bushels of corn that you actually sold as organic, your yield would have had to have been 419 bushels/acre. This is not only not plausible, it contradicts your statement that you sold only 73,209 bushels of corn as organic from this 2016 crop,” the IDALS said. “In fact, in this limited time span from September 28, 2016, through February 3, 2017, you sold more corn as organic than you could have produced even if we included your 2014 and 2015 organic crops in this total. Therefore, it is our position that you willfully sold an additional 105,068.2 bushels of 2016 corn as ‘organic’ beyond what was certified organic and beyond what you reported.”
The additional information obtained by IDALS also included reports from four additional buyers that Haines sold 2017 corn to as “organic”:
“Based on that quantity of acres stated above and the total bushels of corn that you actually sold as organic, your yield would have to have been 234.12 bushels/acre. This is not only not plausible, it contradicts your statement that you sold only 98,114 bushels of corn as organic,” said the notice from IDALS. “Therefore, it is our position that you willfully sold an additional 37,909.21 bushels of 2017 corn as organic beyond what was certified organic and beyond what you reported.”
The notice to Haines from IDALS said “based on the information that has been provided to us, you sold an excess of 105,068.2 bushels from the 2016 corn crop and 37,909.21 bushels from the 2017 crop. This is a total of 142,977.41 additional bushels of organic corn than you presented to inspectors.”
IDALS said the rebuttal from Haines was “not sufficient to resolve this noncompliance,” and that it was the department’s position that Haines “willfully did not disclose accurate sales information to our office.”
“Two years in a row, you stated during your inspections that your storage bins were empty and yet, two years in a row, you sold crop as ‘organic’ after your inspection,” the IDALS said. “Had we not contacted additional grain buyers, we still would not know about these sales.”
IDALS Communications Director, Dustin Vande Hoef, told Sustainable Food News in an email that the Haines had the opportunity to seek mediation or appeal the proposed revocation to the NOP, “and did not take advantage of either option. As a result, we moved forward with revocation on Dec. 27.”
The Haines did not return a request for comment.
Check out the revocation as listed on the NOP’s Organic Integrity Database.
Source: Sustainable Food News
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