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Nebraska organic farm to lose certification

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 03-Dec-2009

A 22,000-head beef and dairy cattle farming operation based in Nebraska and Missouri, Promiseland Livestock, will lose its organic certification for four years, a Washington, DC judge has ruled.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) filed a complaint against the company in 2008, accusing it of keeping inadequate records and refusing the USDA access to those it had kept, according to court documents. Administrative law judge Peter Davenport issued the certification suspension on November 25. It applies to Promiseland, as well as its owner Anthony Zeman.

The court documents said: “Operation under the auspices of the USDA NOP [National Organic Program] is a privilege rather than a right and requires that USDA be granted access to NOP related records upon request.”

Zeman was accused of “seeking to excuse his and Promiseland’s record production delicts on the differing occasions on the basis that he was too busy coping with the impact of natural events.” These included an ice-storm that cut electricity for 13 days, changing the company’s certification agent, and demands on his time during the planting season, among others.

“Given the sheer size and volume of the Respondents’ operation, such excuses over the prolonged period of time involved in this action cannot be countenanced,” the court document said. Promiseland first came to the attention of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service in March 2006, when it received a complaint alleging non-compliance with the organic program, including feeding non-organic feed to livestock, and purchasing conventional grain and reselling it as organic.

No one at Promiseland answered the phone prior to publication of this article.

The ruling has been welcomed by small-scale farm campaigning organization The Cornucopia Institute.

Senior farm policy analyst at Cornucopia Mark Kastel said: "We are pleased that justice has been served in the Promiseland matter.”

The company’s land also included 2,500 acres of corn, 2,500 acres of soybeans, 1,500 acres of sunflowers and 7,500 acres of alfalfa and grass in 2006.

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