An Oregon farmer has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for selling 4.2 million pounds of conventional corn which he passed off as USDA-certified organic. The 55-year-old farmer pleaded guilty in December, admitting he had made an extra $190,000 by faking documentation to show the corn had been purchased from an organic farm. Grain Millers, the company which had bought the corn believing it was organic, tipped off the authorities to some inconsistencies they uncovered while auditing the sale to ensure it complied with the USDA organic program.
But before the complicated hoax was discovered, Grain Millers had already sold some of the non-organic corn to other companies, which had in turn used it as organic feed for cattle. Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Bradford pressed for a strict sentence in the case because the ruse had undermined the USDA’s National Organic Program. He pointed out that the farmer had not only defrauded companies and farms but also consumers who had paid a premium to buy what they thought were pesticide-free foods.