Monthly Archives: September 2017

USDA closes investigation into a massive organic farm — but what did it check?

By Peter Whoriskey

Video drone footage over Aurora Organic Dairy in Greeley, Colo. last year indicated that the dairy was not allowing most of its herd to graze. (Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)

The USDA has closed an investigation into Aurora Organic Dairy, a mega-dairy highlighted in a Post story earlier this year, finding no violations of organic standards.

But the agency did not say whether the investigation disproved the potential violations The Post uncovered last year, saying only that Aurora is currently operating in compliance with organic rules.

“We determined that Aurora’s livestock and pasture management practices comply with existing USDA organic regulations and NOP policies,” Betsy Rakola, the director of enforcement for the National Organic Program at USDA wrote in a letter to Aurora. “Therefore, the case is hereby closed.”

The closure of the case was blasted by the watchdog group that filed the official complaint. The Cornucopia Institute has long criticized the USDA for lax enforcement of organic standards.

“Federal regulators believe Aurora, and other large members of the industry lobby group Organic Trade Association, are ‘too big to fail,'” said Mark Kastel of the Cornucopia Institute, which filed the official complaint that set off the investigation after the Post report.

The Post reported in May that on repeated visits to the dairy last year, most of the cows were not grazing as required by organic rules. In addition, chemical analysis of the milk showed that it was more like conventional than other organic brands.

The Post also reported that inspectors who certify Aurora’s dairy as “USDA Organic” conducted their annual audit last year in November, well after grazing season — a breach of USDA inspection policy. As a result, those inspectors would not have seen whether the cows were grazing as required.

Officials from Aurora Organic Dairy, which has supplied organic milk for brands sold at …read more

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Minorities and Americans without college degrees showed greatest gains in wealth since 2013, new data says

By Heather Long and Tracy Jan

Job seekers fill out employment applications during a Job News USA career fair in Jeffersonville, Ind., on Sept. 20. (Photo by Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg)

Nearly all Americans have now emerged from the Great Recession — with African American and Hispanic families and Americans without high school diplomas showing the greatest gains over the last three years, according to new data released Wednesday from the Federal Reserve.

It’s a sign that the recovery from the devastating Great Recession and financial crisis of 2008 is picking up as more people are able to get jobs, pay off debt and invest more.

Household wealth for African-American and Hispanic families and Americans without high school diplomas rose the fastest from 2013 to 2016, according to the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances, which surveys over 6,000 households about their pay, debt and other finances.

Every slice of America — from young to old and rich to poor — saw their incomes grow and the value of stocks, homes and other assets climb.

But the Fed was also quick to point out growing inequality between the mega rich and everyone else, and between whites and non-whites.

The share of America’s income held by the top 1 percent of households reached 24 percent in 2016, a record high.

Overall, however, the gains of the last three years marked a dramatic shift from the period between 2010 and 2013, when wealth fell for all racial and ethnic groups except whites.

“We’re glad the recovery is spreading to a lot of households,” Fed economists said Wednesday.

The economists didn’t elaborate on what caused the widespread gains, but they did note that the unemployment rate has fallen substantially in recent years from 7.5 percent to 5 percent last year.

The median net worth of white …read more

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