May 1, 2018
On February 21, 2018, OFARM received information that the Mountpark (pictured below) was to arrive in the Port of Stockton, CA on about March 6, 2018 with a cargo of supposed organic corn and soybean meal originating in Turkey. OFARM immediately filed a complaint with USDA’s National Organic Program, Chief Compliance Officer that this cargo was highly suspect as fraudulent.
The ship was turned back and not allowed to unload by Customs and Border Patrol. The ship moored in San Francisco Bay about a mile and a half off shore until pulling up anchor and heading towards Panama on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. Subsequently, Sunrise Foods, owner of the cargo filed a lawsuit in the Federal District Court of Eastern California arguing that they had gotten 16 prior shipments into the U.S. At least one of other shipment was caught by OFARM thanks to our overseas contacts and the corn cargo supposedly originating in Turkey was turned away the last week of September, 2017. Washington Post investigative report Peter Whoriskey found 3 fraudulent ships in May 2017 as reported in the Post which may or may not be related. USDA NOP administrator at that time, Miles McEvoy told OFARM’s executive director at the time that NOP was unaware of the shipment because NOP doesn’t track ships.
Thanks to Ann Ross, Cornucopia Institutes farm policy analyst and an attorney, she uncovered all the court documents filed by Sunrise Foods and Customs and Border Patrol and USDA’s APHIS responses.
Part of the corn cargo is alleged to have originated in Kazakhstan. There is no organic corn or soybean production produced for export in Turkey and absolutely none in Kazakhstan. Other countries listed in CBP and USDA filings indicate Russia and Moldova are involved. Sources also say there is no organic corn production in Moldova.
In other actions OFARM has taken, OFARM representatives met with U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (WI) along with Westby Creamery board members and management to discuss organic fraud in both grain and organic dairy CAFO’s. Subsequently, Senator Johnson has met with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue number of times drawing attention to these issues costing U.S. organic producers millions of dollars.
To date, losses to U.S. organic grain producers due to fraudulent organic grain imports are mounting up to over $400 million dollars. OFARM along with various sources has uncovered a total of 10 ships with supposed organic grain since May, 2016. Seven of those ships have been fraudulent or a rate of 70%. Two additional ships with some of the same companies involved and origin of cargo got into the U.S. but suspicion is high for those two.
On April 26th, OFARM’s executive director, John Bobbe was on a National Organic Standards Board meeting panel to discuss the problems and solutions to bring integrity and profitability back to organic producers. Stay tuned.