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HP Hood LLC refuses to address increase in costs of production for their organic family farms and demands money back for a one month overpayment of 17 cents a gallon
Deerfield, MA, April 28, 2008: After meeting with organic dairy farmers in Maine, New York and Vermont, HP Hood LLC refused to increase the price they get paid for their milk (pay price) and then demanded immediate repayment of an overpayment of 17 cents a gallon for one month of production. As part of their winter payment program to have organic milk year round for their consumers, HP Hood pays an extra 17 cents a gallon to farmers for the months of December, January and February to assist with higher winter costs. Because of a clerical error they also paid the extra amount for March as well.
Maine organic dairy farmer Mark McKusick explains that farmers need every cent possible to cover their expenses, “This action by HP Hood is hitting us when we are the most vulnerable, with some farmers losing 60 cents for every gallon they produce, and now they are looking for us to return 17¢ per gallon because of their error. Organic dairy farmers are returning to conventional production at an unprecedented rate because they are losing so much money. This demand by HP Hood shows their lack of concern for family farms. We appeal to consumers to demand that HP Hood pay their farmers a sustainable price!”
Maine organic dairy farmer Richard Lowry understands that everybody’s costs are rising but, “If farmers aren’t able to pass some of those costs on, family farms will disappear in the Northeast, and leave the consumer with no choice but to buy organic milk that is shipped from across the country.
Organic farmers have appealed many times to HP Hood to increase farmers pay and have received less than a 4% annual increase since January 2006. They appealed to Gary Hirschberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm, to intervene on their behalf but have received no reply. Stonyfield Farm licenses their name to HP Hood LLC, which markets its product as Stonyfield Farms Organic Milk.
The three major purchasers of organic milk set the price they pay farmers differently. Company executives at Horizon Organic and HP Hood set the farmer price after meeting with their farmers. Organic Valley farmer pay is set by the Midwest based farmer board of directors and company executives after consulting with the Dairy Executive Committees for each region.
As New York farmer, Kevin Englebert writes, “The problem comes back to the same old story – (organic) dairy farmers are not receiving enough money for their efforts. The best, long term solution remains receiving a fair price for our organic milk.” Kevin Englebert is an Organic Valley member-owner, and member of the National Organic Standards Board.