News and Trends

Walmart sued over organic eggs

Following the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s move to shelve the animal welfare rule, Walmart has been accused in a lawsuit of misleading shoppers by selling organic eggs laid by hens raised in enclosed structures or porches, and then claiming on the package labeling that the birds had access to the outdoors. Egg supplier Cal-Maine is also named as a defendant.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California by state resident Donnie Lee Gibson, seeks class status, restitution and injunctive relief requiring Walmart and Cal-Maine “to cease their deceptive marketing and sale of private label eggs marketed as providing hens ‘with outdoor access.’” The final rule for animal welfare for organic livestock and poultry that has been held up by USDA, if enacted, would have clearly prohibited such practices in organic production.

Washington State registers pest control solution

Washington State Department of Agriculture has issued a registration certificate to IGI LLC (Inert Gas Injection LLC) for the use of IGI Carbon Dioxide at organic production and processing farms and facilities. The certificate states that the product has been verified to comply with USDA National Organic Standards for use as a crop production aid, disease and pest control, fertilizer and soil amendment, livestock production aid, and for processing and handling.

This marks the first time that organic facilities have had a registered solution for their pest control needs.

Aiming for 100% green electricity

Organic Valley has announced its aim to become the world’s largest food company to source all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2019. To help achieve its carbon neutral goals, it is collaborating with the Upper Midwest Municipal Energy Group and OneEnergy Renewables to create a new community solar partnership that will construct more than 12 megawatts of solar installations in Wisconsin. Investing $6 million in its renewable energy systems over the past six years, Organic Valley said it will purchase renewable energy credits from the solar projects near their headquarters and distribution center enabling the cooperative to be renewably powered.

Grant supports organic farming

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has awarded Rodale Institute and Delaware Valley University a $498,706 grant. The three-year Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) grant will support the Organic Farming Program, a joint initiative between Rodale Institute and DelVal that prepares graduates for careers in organic agriculture. This is the second such grant the Organic Farming Program has received. The first, for 2014 to 2017, was for approximately $370,000.

The 36-credit, one-year Organic Farming Program established in 2012 includes two semesters at the university and one semester at Rodale Institute. Students graduate with the knowledge and experience necessary to start a small-scale organic farm or work for an organic operation. The program offers assistance with job placement and developing business plans for farms so that graduates can easily move into organic agriculture careers.

O Organics now billion-dollar brand

Albertson’s LLC, one of the largest food retailers in the United States, has announced that its private-label brand O Organics grew 15 percent during 2017 and is now a $1-billion brand. An investor group led by Cerberus Capital Management L.P. owns the Idaho-based chain of more than 2,200 stores in 35 states and the District of Columbia.

The California-based Safeway supermarket chain originally launched the brand in 2006. Albertsons then acquired Safeway in January 2015. Since then, Albertson’s has integrated the brand into Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Start Market, Haggen and Carrs. The line features more than 1,000 products, 200 of which were added during 2017. Albertsons expects to add at least another 500 products to O Organics during 2018.   //