One of America’s largest organic dairies has agreed to alter its operations to comply with national organic standards after the U.S. Department of Agriculture threatened to remove its certification for skirting the rules. Aurora Organic Dairy, which sells milk under the label High Meadows and also makes milk for private-label brands including Wild Oats and Wal-Mart, was accused of not providing its cows with enough access to pasture in 2005 to qualify as organic. The subsequent investigation uncovered other rule-breaking such as the improper transitioning of cows from conventional to organic status. The company yesterday agreed to a consent decree with the USDA to clean up its practices, including not renewing the organic certification for one of its dairies; selling off a number of cows at a separate dairy; and increasing the pastureland available to its cows. Aurora will be closely monitored by the USDA for a year to ensure compliance. Critics maintain that the punishment was too light considering the company theoretically could have been fined up to $10,000 per violation for selling conventional milk as organic.

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