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Promiseland Livestock loses organic certification

Promiseland Livestock has lost its organic certification after it spent more than three years avoiding inspectors and refusing to turn over documents, theU.S. Department of Agriculture said. Promiseland at one time supplied some of the industry’s biggest brands with dairy cows.

Owner Anthony Zeman and Promiseland may not do business as certified organic for four years, Administrative Law Judge Peter Davenport ordered Nov. 25. Promiseland is considering an appeal, attorney Mark Mansour said.

According to the order, Promiseland originally was accused of “not complying with the requirements of the organic program, including allegations of feeding non-organic feed to livestock, and purchasing conventional grain, mislabeling it and reselling it as an organic product.” But the finding says only that Zeman failed to turn over financial and organic records.

Promiseland had more than 13,000 acres of pasture and crops under allegedly organic production, and managed 22,000 cattle at four locations in Missouri and one in Nebraska. It sold cows to many dairy producers, including Aurora Organic Dairy and Horizon Organic Dairy.

Both companies cut ties with Promiseland several years ago. “In 2007, we stopped buying organic cattle from Promiseland and increased the resources we put toward raising organic cattle from calves born on our own farms,” spokeswoman Sonja Tuitele said.Horizon Organic Dairy “ended our supplier relationship in mid-2008,” spokeswoman Sara Unrue said.

After complaints were filed in March 2006, the USDA attempted to examine Promiseland’s organic records and conduct field audits. Its original certifier, Quality Assurance International, was replaced by Indiana Certified Organic, which certified its farms in November 2007. But USDA inspectors continued to be turned away, the order said.
The Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute hailed the ruling and said it’s preparing legal documents asking that the USDA investigate QAI’s certification practices.

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