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Annie & Ryan Murray

Hidden Meadows Dairy
Cincinnatus, New York

Annie and Ryan met at the 2015 NODPA Field Days and were recently married!  Ryan (25) grew up on an 80-cow dairy, five miles outside of Truxton, New York. His parents went organic in 2007 in what was Ryan’s first year of high school. Post-high school, Ryan attended two semesters of college, but decided he’d rather find a way to milk his own cows.
In 2013, Ryan rented an 80-stall stanchion barn from a family friend. “When I got started, I only had a few cows at my parent’s farm,” Ryan said. “I started out by buying about 40 conventional unbred heifers,” which he began to transition to organic production in 2012.  “The barn is small and antiquated but it works,” Ryan said.

Annie (21) grew up in Silicon Valley; her dad employed at Google and her mother at the University of Berkeley. She and her mother moved to New York when she was 16, and Annie joked that she had “almost never seen a cow before the move.” “My mother met a dairy farmer down the road and encouraged me to visit the farm. I began milking with him one night a week,” said Annie, explaining the roots of her farming career. For more about the featured farm presented in a different format using a SWOT analysis, please go to:

Hidden Meadows Dairy

Policy – What You as a Producer Can Do

The organic dairy community is a confusing place, especially when we talk about policy and regulation.  For some, the veracity of the organic certification is a matter of whether the certifying entity decides that the operation meets the USDA regulations as the certifier interprets it. For others, the vast majority of organic producers, the organic certification must past the test of basic organic practices (grown in soil) and the reality of farming practices.

Below is an extract from ODairy list serve that illustrates the differences in opinion:

Bruce A. Scholten (BAS) interview with Miles McEvoy (MM) at the 19th organic world congress of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements conference in India:

BAS:For years, I agonized over whether or not Aurora Organic Dairy (AOD in Colorado and Texas) properly grazed their cows. I worry less about Horizon Organic Dairy these days.’
MM:They met the USDA standards.’
BAS:So what about Peter Whoriskey’s articles in WaPo?’
MM:Peter Whoriskey’s articles were based on a drive-by investigation. It wasn’t an audit. His articles are sensationalist.’
BAS:He was in Texas 8 days,’ and didn’t see over 10% of that 10,0000 cow plus herd on pasture.
MM:He was outside 8 days. It wasn’t an audit. Whoriskey’s not a dairy farmer.’

George Siemon, CEO CROPP Cooperative:As far as Aurora goes I have not defended them, but I have strongly defended the NOP verification which is the whole currency of the organic market. Yes, it has flaws, and we all work to keep it improving, but it is our cornerstone. My understanding is Aurora was certified by two different certifiers and had a complete audit by the NOP. Considering that, I believe we need to all defend the organic seal process rather than supporting news headlines that implicate organic dairy as not real. This is not good for the market or for family farms.”

Francis Thicke, NOSB member and organic dairy producer: “I was the one who asked the head of NOP Compliance if they inspected Aurora unannounced, or if they made an appointment. The head of NOP Compliance told me that they made an appointment "because of (NOP) budget constraints." Apparently, the NOP was not so concerned about the budget constraints of the family-scale organic dairy farmers who are fulfilling the grazing rule but are taking a big economic hit because of organic milk surpluses, caused in part by "organic" CAFO dairies.  I agree with Kathie (Arnold) that any grazing organic dairy farmer with a bit of common sense has to be suspicious--and disgusted--that the compelling evidence presented by the Washington Post investigative reporter was brushed aside based on a pre-scheduled audit of Aurora's records. Anyone who believes that Aurora would present records showing noncompliance with the grazing rule during a scheduled appointment with an auditor--regardless of whether or not the records were accurate--is a fool.”

To achieve change that will align with our beliefs as producers we need to influence policy makers in DC. With a new administration in Washington DC and the need for consistent implementation of organic regulation to ensure a fair and level playing field, organic producers need to educate policy makers on the conditions of the organic dairy market. While the policy and regulation issues within the organic dairy community are foremost in our minds, they are of limited interest to most Congressional senators and representatives. Policymakers receive many requests for support for a variety of programs and they respond to constituent requests which have a clear statement of a situation, its implications for their constituents and a way they can help.

To help with that education we provide a summary of the situation in organic dairy plus some talking points on what can be done on the Federal level. NODPA, NOFA NY, MOFGA and other organic organizations will be supplying these talking points directly to their Northeast congressional delegation. Producers can do the same -please go to:

What Producers Can Do

Letter to the Editor

Dear NODPA News Editor:

It is important that clarification be made about the information published recently, both on the Odairy listserv and in the September NODPA News, that stated aflatoxins, particularly gliotoxin, interfere with the Charm tests (Charm Sciences manufactures rapid diagnostic tests across many industries) for antibiotics in milk, specifically tests for sulfonamide drugs. This information is not accurate.
When the situation referenced in that article was unfolding, I contacted the technical services folks at Charm Sciences to discuss more fully the potential for cross-reaction to their sulfonamide assays, the Charm ROSA SULF test primarily used in milk processing plants and the Charm II SULFA test primarily used for confirmation testing in certified laboratories . . .

To read the whole letter please go to:

Letter to the Editor

Closing comments of Francis Thicke at end of his NOSB term. November 2, 2017

“There are two important things that I have learned during my five years on the NOSB. First, I learned that the NOSB review process for materials petitioned for inclusion on the National List is quite rigorous, with Technical Reviews of petitioned materials and careful scrutiny by both NOSB subcommittees and the full board.

The second thing I learned, over time, is that industry has an outsized and growing influence on USDA—and on the NOSB (including through NOSB appointments)—compared to the influence of organic farmers, who started this organic farming movement. Perhaps that is not surprising, given the growing value of organic sales. As organic is becoming a $50 billion business, the industry not only wants a bigger piece of the pie, they seem to want the whole pie.”

To read all of Francis’s comments please go to:

Francis Thicke Comments

Dirt Capital: Promoting Land
Access and Security

Dirt Capital Partners invests in farmland in partnership with farmers throughout the Northeast United States, promoting sustainable farmers’ land access and security. They recognize that farming is risky. Many talented farmers with profitable operations do not qualify for a conventional loan and/or do not have enough capital saved to make a large down payment. The primary alternative is leased land, which is often short-term, insecure and requires permission from landowners to erect basic farm infrastructure. Dirt Capital fills these gaps by facilitating farmland transitions, crafting long-term leases that allow businesses to expand securely, and providing defined pathways to ownership. Dirt Capital worked with Annie and Ryan Murray to obtain their farm. To read more about Dirt Capita common land scenario, approach, legal agreements, partner criteria and a case study, please go to:

Dirt Capital



November 20, 2017

It’s November: Time for the Annual NODPA Fund Drive

Has your NODPA Fund Drive letter arrived? When it does, we hope you will consider all the ways NODPA works for Organic Dairy farm families and those who support the industry, and send in your annual contribution. If you already support NODPA through the monthly Milk Check Assignment or during NODPA’s Field Days, we say thanks! For more information and to give, please go to:

Learn More >


2017 NODPA Field Days:
Embracing Change in Organic Dairy: Truxton, New York

The Northeast was hit by a serious heat wave leading up to the 17th annual meeting and Field Days with temperatures well into the 90’s. Fortunately, by the first day, the heat had receded, and the skies were gray. The two-day event included two farm tours, engaging speakers, and delicious farm-to-table fare. It was once again an educational, fun, and enriching time for organic dairy farmers to come together, share ideas, swap stories, address the current challenges of the organic dairy industry and develop concrete action plans for the future. To read the full article by Sonja Heyck-Merlin and Liz Pickard please go to:

Field Days Summary

To see a photo display of the 2017 NODPA Field Days please go to the Field Days gallery in Field Day by clicking here.

Pay and Feed
Price Update

Estimated sales of total conventional fluid milk products decreased 8 percent from August 2016 whereas estimated sales of total organic fluid milk products decreased slightly by only 0.2 percent from a year earlier.

USDA AMS reports total organic milk products sales for September 2017 were 208 million pounds, down 4.2 percent from the previous September but up 0.2 percent, January-September 2017 compared with the same period of 2016. Total organic whole milk products sales for September 2017, 83 million pounds, were up 0.4 percent compared with September last year and up 6.5 percent, January-September 2017 compared with the same period of 2016.

Results of the 2016 NASS Certified Organic Survey were recently released. Comparing 2016 results with results from 2008 and 2014, the general trend is that organic dairy farms are producing more organic milk, and average dollar sales by farms have increased. Looking at each of the top 15 states, the number of organic dairy farms from 2014 to 2016 has increased except Minnesota, New Mexico and Iowa, each of which has declined. Comparing 2008 and 2016, there were declines in organic dairy farm numbers in 7 of the top 15 states:  Wisconsin, Texas, Oregon, Vermont, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Iowa. However, in each of those states the average organic milk sales per farm increased from 2008 to 2016.  Several states had no data on the number of cows, volume of milk or dollar sales including New Mexico and Colorado. New York has the largest number of organic dairy farms, 486, closely followed by Wisconsin with 455. Wisconsin had led the survey in farm numbers in 2008 and 2014. California has the highest organic milk sales (volumes and dollars) of any state with 106 farms averaging 473 milking cows per farm at an average pay price of $34.90 per hundred pounds. For more on the Feed and Pay price please go to:

Pay Price Nov 2017

Join Odairy

The ODairy email list serve hosts robust discussions on many different issues, some practical, some on policy, some on politics and some just exchanging news on the organic community. ODairy is blessed by having so many committed veterinarians experienced in organic production who take an active part in the discussions on the list serve. There is no one way to solve a health problem in organic production.  Also, Odairy is a great place to advertise animals for sale and organic feed that is available.

To join the active and informative email list serv, or to visit ODairy's archive, clicking here.

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