Consumers for Integrity in Business
One consumer alone can't change the world, but together we can!
In today's economy every dollar counts and in today's world every voice CAN count.
Lets work together to change the world for the better.
There are thousands of companies competing for your business. Many of them are great, but there is the
occasional "bad apple". Our goal is to find these companies and spread the word about their bad business
practices. We want them to know that integrity in business matters, and that we as consumers are willing to
take a stand for what is right.
Karma Nalder, President
If you know of an issue that we should highlight, contact us at email@example.com
Current Issue: Horizon Organic milk company is misleading consumers and dealing unethically with producers. They claim to get their milk from small, family-owned farms when they are actually driving these exact farms out of business. Horizon is not honoring contracts with small farmers, but instead getting their milk from their OWN company mega-dairies. They are misleading consumers by stating, on their website and in their literature, that they are comprised of small family dairies, when in fact, much of their milk comes from dairies with more than 500 cows.
One dairyman, Mr. Don Halverson, the owner of a small 50-cow dairy in Idaho, has shared his story of Horizon committing verbally to take his milk once he completed the expensive organic certification process, only to refuse to honor that agreement after he'd invested the thousands of dollars and time required. His letter is found here. We have spoken extensively with Horizon Organic to ensure we had the full story. They have refused to comment on this issue in writing.
The integrity of an organic product is no better than the integrity of the company producing it.
Action Requested: Please contact Horizon Organic and tell them you will boycott their milk unless they start treating farmers and consumers with integrity. (Contact numbers are at the bottom of this page).
Please forward this information and website to others who may be interested, post on your blog, or send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Help us get the word out to other consumers.
UPDATE: 1/6/2011 - This issue is still the only unresolved issue we have. MANY other issues have come and gone, but this remains. However, YOU HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE!!! Rumor has it (unconfirmed) that Horizon has lost 2 of their dairies since we first published this and asked for your support. THANK YOU!! But...BE AWARE! We hear that Horizon is not doing so well with their organic milk anymore (Hmm, wonder how that happened?), so they are planning to start selling NON-organic milk, but use the same logo. They will have to remove the word "organic", but are hoping that when people see the Horizon name and logo they won't look closely enough to realize that it's no longer organic. And since it will be sold for less money, people may think they are getting a good deal on organic milk. So tell people you know - should you decide to buy Horizon milk again (I won't, but it's up to you), MAKE SURE IT HAS THE USDA ORGANIC LOGO on it! And again - thank you for making a difference!
Consumers for Integrity in Business
Dealings with Horizon Organic:
For Immediate Release: January 29, 2009
I first contacted Whitewave Foods, parent company of Horizon Organic, about the Halverson Dairy around December 15, 2008. I left messages for many members of the company including, Blaine McPeak – President, Scott Toth – VP over Procurement (called him twice); Craig Fullmer (called 5 times), and Sara Loveday, Media Relations. Ms. Loveday was the only one who returned any of my calls. After discussing things with her for two days, she passed me off to Rob Fagan, Consumer Relations. The majority of my discussions have been with Mr. Fagan.
The following is what I have learned:
In the fall of 2008, Halverson Dairy was certified as an organic dairy and ready to sell their milk to Horizon Organic. Mr. Greg Dabney, formally Manager of Producer Relations, Northwest, had told them that Horizon would purchase their milk as soon as their organic certification was complete. Horizon now claimed there was a surplus of organic milk and they would not buy the Halversons milk after all. After spending two months making excuses, on December 10, 2008, Craig Fullmer, Manager Producer Relations, (supervisor over Mr. Dabney’s position) told the Halversons that Horizon would not buy the milk from their 50 cows because of the surplus. On December 11, 2008 Horizon opened its new 2,000 cow dairy less than 50 miles away. (They already had one large 4,000 cow dairy in Idaho and they claim they simply "split" that one, but they had 750 additional cows that they had to ship to New Mexico when the new dairy didn’t open on it’s expected date.)
In discussing numbers of cows with Mr. Fagan, he originally couldn’t give me an exact number of cows. He did not know if the 750 cows that were shipped to NM were part of the 4,000 or in addition to the 4,000. He told me he was simply talking in "general estimations". If 750 cows this way or that is a "general" number, is taking the milk from an additional 50 cows to maintain your company’s integrity that big of a deal?
All of Horizon’s advertising is based on the fact that they get their milk from small family farms. In Idaho, this is NOT the case. In Idaho, Horizon has two large, company owned dairies with more than 4,000 cows. They have only 3 other dairies in the entire state. One has 900+ cows, one approximately 600 cows, and their smallest "family owned" dairy has 340 cows. The Halverson dairy fits the image that Horizon advertises MUCH better than any of the dairies they currently buy from and certainly better than their own company dairy. They are misleading consumers and not dealing ethically with the very people they claim make up their business.
Their official pamphlets say they "supplement" family farm milk with their own milk because the demand for organic milk is so high. In Idaho, that is not true. They produce the majority of the milk, and supposedly there is a surplus of organic milk. Which raises the question – then why does it cost $6.99/gallon?
In June 2008, Greg Dabney, who had been the Producer Relations Manager over the area where the Halverson Dairy is, changed positions within the company. Larry Hansen was hired for his position. Prior to changing positions, Dabney had talked with the Halversons on numerous occasions. There is no question that he knew the Halversons were transitioning their dairy to organic with plans to sell their milk to Horizon Organic. Mr. Dabney encouraged the Halversons to spend thousands of dollars to transition their land and herd, and told them there was a definite market for their milk. Mr. Dabney asked to visit the dairy and the Halversons told him he was welcome to come by anytime. He didn’t want to make a separate trip to the area, so he said he would visit "when he was in the area". He never visited. Dabney’s reason is that he was never issued a "formal" invitation to visit.
Horizon Organic is claiming that the Halversons did not follow the correct process to sell their milk to the company. For starters, they never had an "official on-site visit". The fact that Dabney never visited is his fault. A verbal invitation to visit is as good as a "formal" invitation. What did he want? A printed invitation on fancy paper?
Also, on November 26, 2008, Larry Hansen DID visit the Halverson Dairy. Horizon claims this was not an "official visit", simply a visit to "see if they would be potential suppliers sometime in the future". Not only did Larry Hansen make Halversons wait 6 weeks for the supposedly "informal" visit so he could visit on his way to Utah for Thanksgiving, but while there he asked to come back – on his way home from Thanksgiving. (Sounds to me like a good way to make the company pay for his Thanksgiving vacation.) However, he did not show up for his second visit, and did not even have the common courtesy to call to cancel. Again, it’s whose fault that there was no "official visit"?
When Halversons called to see why Hansen had not shown up, (he had an excuse about having to go to California to talk to lawmakers), Hansen said he was recommending that Horizon DID buy Halversons milk. He was "concerned" about whether the milk truck could get into the dairy though. He even had a milk truck driver come to the dairy to see if he could get his truck in. The driver said he could, but it would be helpful if Don Halverson relocated a utility pole. Hansen said he would get back to the Halversons and asked them to "look into" moving the pole. If Hansen was there just to see if the Halversons would be "potential suppliers in the future", why ask them to relocate a power pole? My opinion: simply to put them off. If Halversons refused to relocate the pole it would give Horizon an excuse to not take their milk.
Another one of Horizon’s excuses is that Don Halverson never applied to the HOPE (Horizon Organic Producer Education) program. I have a copy of the informational packet given to potential farmers. It does talk about the HOPE program, but NOWHERE does it say that you have to apply for it. The information makes it seem as if once you are an organic dairy, you are automatically included in their elite HOPE organization to make friends with other organic producers. It also NEVER says anything about only HOPE program participants getting contracts. However, Mr. Fagan told me that 99% of their new dairies come from the HOPE program.
The information that IS in the packet says over and over (at least 7 times) that all producers need to do is get a "Horizon support representative". This company rep will walk them through the process, help them find feed, help them find a certifier, etc, etc. Horizon has a "Four Steps to Organic" that the Halversons DID follow. The four steps are: 1) Choose a USDA accredited organic certifier. (Your rep will help you find one and help you fill out the paperwork.) 2) Transition your land. (Your rep will provide information and tips.) 3) Transition your herd. (Your rep will help you locate feed, offer guidance etc.) Horizon claims that it is at this step that the representatives normally offer contracts. However, since Don only "asked" for a contract, and didn’t "push" for one, a written contract was never signed. Only a verbal agreement was made. Step 4) CELEBRATE your first certified organic milk! "Once you have satisfied the requirements above (which the Halversons did), and your certifier has issued your organic certificate (which has been done), your conversion is complete. Congratulations!" On the same page, "Family farms are the heart of Horizon Organic" and "Enjoy ongoing support and guidance from your Horizon Organic farm support rep."
Halversons DID have a Horizon Organic farm rep – Greg Dabney. He did not do his job in walking them through the process and getting a contract in place. Once Larry Hansen took over his position, Hansen’s claim was that HE didn’t make any promises and promises made by Dabney weren’t binding because Dabney wasn’t "over that" any longer. Larry Hansen told Halversons that Dabney had "made promises" to several people.
Greg Dabney was acting under Horizon’s authority when he talked with the Halversons. Horizon should honor or fix things their representatives say or do. If a person is moved to a different position within a company, it does not negate anything they have done in their previous position.
Two key statements made by Mr. Fagan say a lot. On December 17, 2008, he told me, "Greg (Dabney) was surprised when Don didn’t push for a (written) contract." This proves Dabney knew they were at the point when a written contract should have been signed. Mr. Halverson, like many others in his profession, does all of his business with verbal contracts including buying and selling hay and other crops, buying and selling cattle, and even creating work arrangements with his employees. In his business dealings, a verbal agreement has always constituted a contract. On December 19, Mr. Fagan said, "If a contract had been made, Horizon would honor it (although demand for organic milk is down)." A verbal contract IS indeed a contract and as such should be honored, as it would have been had it been put into writing. Since Dabney is now denying ever making a verbal commitment to Don Halverson, but no doubt was NOT performing his job how he should have been (or a written contract would have been in place), I believe Horizon should do the ethically right thing and buy the milk from the Halverson Dairy.
In conclusion, a representative of Horizon Organic made a verbal commitment to buy milk from the Halverson Dairy. They should honor that commitment even though the representative has been transferred to a different position. Also, Horizon should not claim their milk comes from small, family-owned dairies when that is not the case in Idaho. Buying milk from the Halverson Dairy would make it so they had AT LEAST one dairy that fit their advertising profile.
I asked Mr. Rob Fagan to put a statement in writing regarding our many phone calls. He "checked into it" and told me "the legal team at Whitewave Foods has advised me and everyone else involved in this matter to refuse to put ANYTHING into writing." I asked for a simple statement saying he did not have a comment. He again refused, saying he would not put his name on anything involving buying milk from the Halverson Dairy. Don Halverson put his story into writing. I am willing to put anything I say into writing. The fact that they refuse to put any of their excuses into writing again confirms that they do not deal ethically and with integrity with their producers or with consumers.
The integrity of an organic product is no better than the integrity of the producer. For this reason I am asking news agencies to share this story and consumers to stop buying Horizon Organic milk.
Karma Nalder, President
Consumers for Integrity in Business
If you would like to contact Horizon Organic (or Whitewave Foods) a few numbers are listed below:
Rob Fagan, Consumer Relations: 303-635-4469; firstname.lastname@example.org
Sara Loveday, Media Relations: 303-635-4680; email@example.com
Office of Scott Toth (VP over Procurement): 214-303-3400; firstname.lastname@example.org
Whitewave Foods general line (you can ask for who you want or type in their name, including Craig Fullmer):
Office of Blaine McPeak, President: 303-635-4000 (put his name in the directory) email@example.com
Also see Horizon’s website: http://www.horizonorganic.com/