In a year when some 700 dairy farms closed down in the state of Wisconsin and market pressures continue to affect dairy farmers nationwide, officials from Organic Valley revealed it brought aboard 63 new members to the cooperative.
Despite another year of increasing market volatility, the La Crosse, Wis.-based dairy cooperative said its 2018 sales were at an all-time high, surpassing $1.1 billion for the third year in a row.
“We were born out of the farm crisis of the 1980s and witnessed first-hand the significant losses family farms endured,” Arnie Trussoni, president of Organic Valley’s board, said during the company’s annual meeting in early April. “Today’s milk surplus brings about similar challenges to dairy farmers across the country, but Organic Valley has found a model that works to keep small family farms on their land. We’ve built a stable business that can weather this storm and are proud to keep our commitment to family farms.”
While emphasizing its commitment to maintaining a “spirit of collaboration” to share each other’s strengths, Bob Kirchoff, interim CEO, said, “Organic Valley is prepared to meet the continued challenges that we are experiencing in the marketplace. We believe our investment in building greater brand equity and further ensuring our products are available when and where our consumers are looking will be key drivers to our future success.”
Kirchoff was named interim CEO of the nation's largest organic farmer co-op after founding farmer and longtime CEO George Siemon stepped down in March.
Highlights from Organic Valley’s 2018 annual report include:
- Maintaining competitive pay prices for farmer members. The cooperative’s national dairy pay price was $29.74 per hundredweight on average, delivering an organic premium of $13.97—approximately 88% higher than the average conventional price.
- Sable pay prices for its more than 120 egg producers.
- Established its standing as a leader and innovator in grass-fed dairy. Alongside organic dairy producer Maple Hill, Organic Valley laid the groundwork for a new third-party verified Certified Grass-Fed Organic Dairy standard and seal.
- The launch of a number of new grass-milk products, including kids yogurt cups and tubes and half and half, cheese snack kits, caramel flavored half and half and redesigned egg packaging with a new “free to forage” seal.
- Continued advocacy for higher animal care standards across the industry, including its collaboration with other organic industry leaders in a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Department of Agriculture to prevent the withdrawal of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule, which ensures that hens have ample room indoors and outdoors, perches to roost on, and dirt and grass to scratch in.
Organic Valley represents nearly 2,000 farmers in 34 U.S. states.