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Companies that bully -- aka Organic Valley

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  • Companies that bully -- aka Organic Valley

    This probably is better suited to the Around the Farm forum, but I'm extremely irritated and upset by this whole thing and wanted to get the word out to as many people as possible. This IS happening... we have friends who are losing their milk supply because of the tactics employed by Organic Valley. Makes me wish we had our cow NOW!
    -----------------

    I remember seeing in the Food Inc documentary about how major brand chicken farmers were essentially told what to do and how to do it since the food company owned the chickens and could renew their contracts or not based on how the farmers followed the company's directions. I think that's a horrible way to live and begrudge the big chicken companies for it.

    Now it seems those bullying tactics have flowed to the organic side of things. Organic Valley, a "coop" of dairy farmers, has suddenly put pressure on it's member farmers telling them that if they have a herd share (a way for consumers to get raw milk) they are in jeopardy of losing their OV contracts. By and large, those farmers who participate in Grade A milk supplies along with herd shares certainly aren't getting rich on the herd shares. One farmer said 95% of his milk production goes to pasteurization supplies while the 5% goes towards herd shares. So if that's mostly the case, why then is it necessary for Organic Valley to bully and essentially blackmail the farmers to give up the herd shares? the ODA tried this a few years ago with a fairly large dairy farm north of here. I don't know the ins and outs of how it was settled but they're still doing herdshare. The kids' mom talked to some of her fellow homeschool group moms yesterday that ARE being affected by the Organic Valley bullying... they're losing their herdshare because the farmer can't afford NOT to have that supply line.

    I think it's ridiculous! Makes me wonder what they're so worried about and why they feel it necessary to step into thug territory by threatening farmers. If their products are so great, then what's the problem? And their products are good -- we've been purchasing Organic Valley butter for years. But not any more!! Organic Valley's practices of bullying and blackmailing their coop farmers with loss of contract if they continue a herd share operation, no matter the size, is reprehensible and certainly not a business practice I would have expected from a company like Organic Valley. And as long as they continue to dictate to whom farmers can sell legally sell their products, they will not get a dime of my money.
    ************
    "Of course it's hard. It's supposed to be hard. It's the Hard that makes it great."

    "Get up... Get out... Get Drunk. Repeat as needed." -- Spike

  • #2
    You are right, this doesn't belong here, but since it is, for now, I will bring to the discussion that raw milk sales to the public IS a health concern and I can see why that coop wants to be sure that anyone selling raw milk does so thru a separate entity, not one that, if there are problems, as they are at times, it won't reflect on the whole coop.

    I would think this was a business decision, didn't have anything to do with meanies wanting more control.

    Those dairymen that want to sell raw milk really should do so as a different operation than their regular one, if nothing else, to protect themselves.
    I say that coop is asking them to do so for all their sakes.
    Hey, if you want the advantages of a coop, you have to play by their rules, or go thru the channels to change the rules if they don't suit you and enough other members.

    Oh, also, if you go by your knowledge of how agriculture works by Food inc, sorry, that was so far out as not even being in the same planet, much of that was taken out of context and myths, to propagate some agendas.
    You don't really expected the people behind that "documentary" to present any other than what they want you to believe, would you?

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      Raw milks is NOT being sold to the public. It is being "sold" to people who specifically want it enough to "partially pay" for the cow! Thanks to the ODA that is the only way one can GET raw milk in the state of Ohio. Essentially, it's OUR milk -- we're paying for the upkeep of the cow and the labor to collect it for us.

      How exactly does that come back on OV? I'm a farmer... I have 100 cows that produce 500 gallons of milk/day (nice round numbers). of that 500, 450 gallons goes through a pasteurization process and is then 'sold' via the OV coop ... for processing and public sales as milk, butter, yogurt, cheese, etc. the remaining 50 gallons/week get bottled up and are picked up by 10 families that are involved in the herd share program. Sorry, I don't see where OV is "simply CYA" anything. They're dictating what the farmer can do and who they can sell to, plain and simple.
      ************
      "Of course it's hard. It's supposed to be hard. It's the Hard that makes it great."

      "Get up... Get out... Get Drunk. Repeat as needed." -- Spike

      Comment


      • #4
        I NEVER purchase organic milk because I thinks it's freakin cruelty! The farmers are NOT allowed to treat cows suffering from infected utters (which is common in milking stock) with antibiotics EVER. They limited to "organic approved" methods (which often don't work), letting the cow suffer and hope it gets better on it's own, or shipping her off to another farm or off to slaughter all the while suffering effects of a mastitis. Farmers caught treating their cows with antibiotics to FIGHT INFECTION will lose their hard to get Organic certification. I buy my milk from local sources, no it's not organic but I know the cows are well cared for and get TREATED when they get ill. The whole Organic thing is really screwed up in a lot of ways and also open to the ABUSE of any other industry, it's the free market after all. IF someone can twist the market to their needs and make MORE money they will, yes even through mafia style "coops". Another day another dollar.

        Comment


        • #5
          No, no, no one would not treat a sick cow, no matter what.

          The cows are treated as needed, but then retired from the organic lines and not used there any more, if they want to keep their certification.
          At least that is what they are supposed to do.

          The same with any beef cattle that are raised for the organic market, that if they need treated, then are changed to different marketing channels.
          Not that treating that calf would hurt anyone, any more than you giving your child antibiotics when needed.
          Antibiotics do their thing and wash out anyway, but those are the rules.

          The same with any crops that get infested with something, you treat them and then sell them in the regular market, remembering that what you treat them with are products that have been tested and proven safe for that as indicated.

          Organic and natural and such are just marketing ploys, for those that like to be hip, but the products are the same, sometimes not as good because they could not be protected with products that keeps them from spoiling.
          Whatever the consumer want, producers will try to provide, if it makes sense or not.

          The latest study of many studies in England clearly shows there is NO difference between organic/natural and conventional products when it comes to their nutrition, just the preference of the consumer makes one seem better:

          http://www.drovers.com/news_editoria...675&ed_id=5846

          http://www.latimes.com/features/food...C2885942.story

          Now, organic or not, you may have small or large producers doing a better job than others, just as with anything else in our lives, but that it is labeled any one way, when it comes to food, much of that labeling is mere good marketing, all being very much the same after all.

          Comment


          • #6
            that's not exactly what is going on...it made the dairy papers last month...basically if you are member of the cooperative then you agree to get the benefits of the cooperative as well as the restrictions of same....you can't have it both ways...and this is what Organic Valley as a cooperative has said...and I agree with Jon Bansen,I would never ever ever drink raw milk I did not strip, and even then only if the power was out

            Controversy Over Organic Valley Raw Milk Decision
            by Cookson Beecher | Jun 16, 2010

            What gives?

            That's what some raw milk advocates are asking about Organic Valley's recent decision to prohibit its members from selling unpasteurized milk on the side. The decision means that members will have to either sell all of their milk to the cooperative or break off from the cooperative and start up their own raw milk business.

            organic-valley-featured.jpgPart of the reason so many people are puzzled by this recent turn of events is that Organic Valley recently endorsed a Wisconsin raw milk bill that would have allowed dairy farmers to sell unpasteurized milk directly to consumers. Despite the bill's strong support among state legislators, the governor vetoed it, citing public health concerns as the reason.

            Then, too, Organic Valley has always supported the consumer's right to choose and has for the past 22 years allowed its members to sell raw milk on the side.

            For many people outside the cooperative, confusion reigns.

            "For some reason, Organic Valley had their tit in a wringer over something--and we are still waiting for someone to come forward to spill the cream," says a comment on a blog site.

            Conjectures include federal pressure through a $1 million grant that would help fund infrastructure to benefit Organic Valley's site in Le Farge, Wisconsin; shadowy corporate influences to drive small-scale farmers out of business; and fears that a foodborne illness outbreak associated with an Organic Valley member's farm would tarnish the reputation of the cooperative.

            Organic Valley member and spokesman Jon Bansen, co-owner of Double J Jerseys in Oregon, is quick to agree that raw milk is "the hot topic of all times in the dairy industry."

            So hot, in fact, that cooperative members are fairly divided on this issue, with about 50 percent for and about 50 percent against the board's prohibition of raw milk sales. It was a decision that, according to a statement from the cooperative, came after months and months of reading "volumes of literature" about the pros and cons of raw milk and years of debate among members.

            But Bansen said that when all is said and done, the board's vote wasn't about the safety of raw milk or consumers' rights to choose what they eat or drink but rather what the mission of the cooperative is: organic dairy farmers banding together to market their milk under a common brand.

            "We're not in the business of selling raw milk," Bansen said. "It's not our business model."

            Bansen said some members have been making a business of selling raw milk and using Organic Valley to balance out their milk supply.

            But that, in turn, said Bansen, can hurt the cooperative.

            During the winter months, for example, when milk production is down but demand for milk is up, farmers selling raw milk can sell more of their raw milk than in the summer months when demand is down because people are drinking less milk and more hot-weather drinks such as iced tea, beer, and pop.

            Yet summer is when milk production goes up.

            Bansen said this seasonal difference in supply can leave Organic Valley in the position of either having too much milk or too little milk to process and sell.

            And though Bansen estimates that it's just a small minority of the cooperative's members who are making raw milk their side business, he said it can make a difference in how Organic Valley balances its supply.

            Even so, he can also understand why so many of the cooperative's members don't like the board's decision.

            "A lot of them have neighbors begging them for their raw milk," he said. "I have people come to me all of the time begging to buy raw milk from me."

            And while he and his family drink raw milk from their farm, he said he wouldn't touch selling it to other people "with a 10-foot pole."

            "I don't want to bet my livelihood on the assumption that every dairy farmer is doing it right all of the time," he said, referring to food safety procedures that need to be followed when producing and selling raw milk.

            Maine dairy farmer and Organic Valley member Doug Hartkopf, owner of Hart-to-Hart Farm, would agree. He told a reporter that raw milk can be harmful if the farmer producing it is not doing his job properly. He also said there are some farms whose milk he wouldn't drink based on "how they raise cows or whatever."

            Hartkopf also told the reporter that he sells most of his milk to a processor that pasteurizes his farm's milk and sells a small percentage as raw milk.

            Connecting food safety concerns with consumers' rights, Bansen said he believes that people have the right to eat, drink, or smoke whatever they want.

            But if raw milk from a cooperative member got people sick, he wouldn't want to see the cooperative's reputation be hurt. He also referred to "lawyers' ramping up the stakes" when it comes to foodborne illnesses.

            And with the cooperative's members hailing from 33 states and four Canadian provinces, Bansen worries about the patchwork of raw milk regulations in the different states--a concern that in addition to public health concerns led Whole Foods earlier this year to stop selling raw milk in its stores.

            When looking at his farm's bottom line and the cooperative's bottom line, Bansen said he favors the board's conservative approach to doing business.

            "A conservative approach is what keeps you in business and out of harm's way," he said.

            According to Organic Valley's statement about its raw milk decision, most of its farmer-owners drink raw milk and many believe in its benefits.

            "The decision is not because we are 'against raw milk,'" says the statement.

            The statement also reaffirms the cooperative's belief that consumers should have the choice to purchase raw milk from the farm and consume it as long as proper food safety procedures are followed.

            But pointing to the cooperative's challenges in managing its milk supply, the statement said that when it counts on and plans for a farmer's entire supply only to see that the amount of milk delivered is unexpectedly less due to raw milk sales, it creates difficulties in supply management and planning, which affects all of the cooperative's farmer-owners.

            "We are taking a cautious approach in order to keep our cooperative and brands strong for future generations of organic family farmers," says the statement.

            Last year, the cooperative recorded $527 million in sales.

            Not surprisingly, raw milk advocates are outraged by Organic Valley's decision on this.

            "We're opposed," said Pete Kennedy, an attorney with the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. "It's cheating the cooperative's members out of selling raw milk. They're not competing with Organic Valley. If anything, they can help Organic Valley's reputation."

            Organic Valley's statement conceded that its decision may "end up being a boon for the raw milk movement in the states where it is legal."

            In Connecticut, Sarah Brush, who manages Brush Hill Dairy in the southeast corner of the state, said the cooperative's decision will generally help raw milk producers, depending on where their farms and markets are located.

            "When Whole Foods stopped selling raw milk, it did push raw milk sales to farms and other stores," she said. "We saw a slight difference in sales."

            She said the dairy decided to start supplementing its income by selling some of its raw milk and selling the rest to the processor.

            "There's no money in conventional dairying," she said, referring to abysmally low milk prices the past several years. "There's no money in it."

            Generally, raw milk sells for double the price of conventional milk, sometimes considerably more.

            When asked about the boycott that some opponents to Organic Valley's raw milk decision are calling for, Oregon dairy farmer Bansen said it was shortsighted.

            "We're doing things that are keeping our planet from dying under its own waste," he said, referring to organic practices that don't allow synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. "Here they are calling for a boycott against us, and we're part of the solution. It flabbergasts me."

            While many raw milk advocates swear by the health benefits of drinking raw milk, many scientists and health agencies warn that milk that isn't pasteurized to kill pathogens can cause foodborne illnesses or even death.
            Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
            I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.

            Comment


            • #7
              ---""We're doing things that are keeping our planet from dying under its own waste," he said, referring to organic practices that don't allow synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. "Here they are calling for a boycott against us, and we're part of the solution. It flabbergasts me." "---

              That is not quite so, as more and more studies are showing clearly.
              Many of the organic/natural products take as much if not more resources and carbon footprint, if you count all your ducks and get them in a row, as this one example shows:

              http://www.cattlenetwork.com/alpharm...q_v=bac3336c15

              ---"An Iowa State University study shows that beef animals finished in a conventional feedyard using grain-based rations and growth-enhancing technologies are three times more land efficient than organic or grass-fed beef animals. Conventional feedyard-production technologies make the most efficient use of total farmland resources. This is particularly important as we consider:

              • The world population is estimated to reach 9 billion by the middle of the 21st century.
              • The global demand for food will double by 2050 and there will continue to be increased per-capita demand for beef and other high-quality animal protein.
              • Worldwide, we have a limited land area on which to produce food, feed and fiber.
              • It is critical that we continue to conserve natural and biodiverse natural habitats."

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Organic Valley's statement conceded that its decision may "end up being a boon for the raw milk movement in the states where it is legal."

                And it hurts consumers in states where it is illegal. Since Ohio is one of those states, we may be more concerned with this decision than other places who can simply find another farmer. The one mom who talked to us yesterday WAS losing her raw milk connection because the farmer was opting to stay with Organic Valley because they couldn't lose the income. So how does that work with their statements that they were losing most of their milk supply in the winter??
                ************
                "Of course it's hard. It's supposed to be hard. It's the Hard that makes it great."

                "Get up... Get out... Get Drunk. Repeat as needed." -- Spike

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by tle View Post
                  [i] So how does that work with their statements that they were losing most of their milk supply in the winter??
                  don't know...but "organic" milk supplies will decline every winter for various reasons, spring calvings,forage based feed programs,refusal to supply proper housing...all kinds of things...

                  a cow has to live in basically "perpetual early summer" to milk the best and unless your feed/housing programs support this she's gonna decline..as does any dairy animal be it ewe or goat or horse or cow

                  Tamara in TN
                  Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
                  I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Why do you want raw milk? to make your own cheese? What else can you do with it? Just curious
                    www.abernathyfarm.com

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Lmabernathy View Post
                      Why do you want raw milk? to make your own cheese? What else can you do with it? Just curious
                      People drink it. Couldn't pay me to! But then again I don't really drink milk (it doesn't like me if you know what I mean ) and only use skim milk in things, with the occasional use of buttermilk. Though I would give a go at making cheese.

                      I do understand why they don't want it sold from there though. If someone gets sick from it they could go after OV. Because who would you go after? The farmer? Take the blame yourself? Or the big company? Remember we are a very sue happy society now

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Moved to Around the Farm.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Humans thrived when they learned to have a steady, aboundant and varied diet.
                          Part of it was to properly prepare and preserve foods, including boiling milk.

                          Nothing in life is 100% safe, but why play russian roulette with our food any more than we need to?

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Originally posted by Lmabernathy View Post
                            Why do you want raw milk? to make your own cheese? What else can you do with it? Just curious
                            in addition to some bad stuff, pasteurization also kills a lot of beneficial stuff in the milk. Unfortunately, i'm not the one in the family who has researched all of the ins and outs so that general statement is about as specific as I can go. sorry. the VAST majority of ours gets made into yogurt using a dehydrator (so in effect it does get a pasteurization of sorts at home but something about how its' done or the cultures used makes it much healthier than anything you get at a grocery store). We also use the cream for sour cream. Sometimes we'll make ice cream and once in a blue moon we'll have a glass raw (it's yummy but we eat so much yogurt that I usually remember to have a glass AFTER it's all be used for the week). I can anecdotally tell you that it's due to the homemade yogurt - first with goat as it was more tolerable, then with cow as the healing happened - that members of my family are MUCH healthier now than they were. The yogurt was/is a staple of their diet and it was through a change in the diet from processed typical American stuff to a very natural, scratch made type of diet (SCD for those who know what that is... naturally raised meats WITH beneficial fats, natural butters and oils, tons of veggies, a few RIPE fruits, no grains and lots of yogurt for example) that their lives and quality of life improved -- from dealing with Auspergers, Hashimoto's, chronic fatigue and a host of other immune related issues... to leading healthy full lives that include working on a farm and running 5K races! it's part of the reason that we own the farm now. Oh and we haven't made butter just because again we lack the supply!

                            Bluey... I think we've gone round about the naturally raised vs "farm" raised cattle issues before. I'm not going to argue with you... I dont' have the time today (perhaps next OT day? ). But it is an argument because I don't believe the studies you're quoting are truly comparing the 2 different methods. They're tryign to compare typical farming with some hybridized version of natural farming that suites their purposes. So yes... I disagree completely! Oh and who was it that was funding said study, eh? So much of our food industry as it exists doesn't want to change because right now it's being propped up by government subsidies in one way or another (directly or indirectly). Follow the money and you find the "results" of most studies fall in line with the thinking of those who hold the purse strings.
                            ************
                            "Of course it's hard. It's supposed to be hard. It's the Hard that makes it great."

                            "Get up... Get out... Get Drunk. Repeat as needed." -- Spike

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by tle View Post
                              in addition to some bad stuff, pasteurization also kills a lot of beneficial stuff in the milk. Unfortunately, i'm not the one in the family who has researched all of the ins and outs so that general statement is about as specific as I can go. sorry. the VAST majority of ours gets made into yogurt using a dehydrator (so in effect it does get a pasteurization of sorts at home but something about how its' done or the cultures used makes it much healthier than anything you get at a grocery store). We also use the cream for sour cream. Sometimes we'll make ice cream and once in a blue moon we'll have a glass raw (it's yummy but we eat so much yogurt that I usually remember to have a glass AFTER it's all be used for the week). I can anecdotally tell you that it's due to the homemade yogurt - first with goat as it was more tolerable, then with cow as the healing happened - that members of my family are MUCH healthier now than they were. The yogurt was/is a staple of their diet and it was through a change in the diet from processed typical American stuff to a very natural, scratch made type of diet (SCD for those who know what that is... naturally raised meats WITH beneficial fats, natural butters and oils, tons of veggies, a few RIPE fruits, no grains and lots of yogurt for example) that their lives and quality of life improved -- from dealing with Auspergers, Hashimoto's, chronic fatigue and a host of other immune related issues... to leading healthy full lives that include working on a farm and running 5K races! it's part of the reason that we own the farm now. Oh and we haven't made butter just because again we lack the supply!

                              Bluey... I think we've gone round about the naturally raised vs "farm" raised cattle issues before. I'm not going to argue with you... I dont' have the time today (perhaps next OT day? ). But it is an argument because I don't believe the studies you're quoting are truly comparing the 2 different methods. They're tryign to compare typical farming with some hybridized version of natural farming that suites their purposes. So yes... I disagree completely! Oh and who was it that was funding said study, eh? So much of our food industry as it exists doesn't want to change because right now it's being propped up by government subsidies in one way or another (directly or indirectly). Follow the money and you find the "results" of most studies fall in line with the thinking of those who hold the purse strings.
                              Of course you don't like, because the studies found that there is more hype than truth to those new "back to nature" products being all that they are claimed to be, once you put DATA behind them.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                That just sounds like Organic Valley trying to manage/control their supply to better run their business. As stated in multiple places in their article, they're not opposed to people drinking raw milk and feel raw vs. pasturized is a consumer decision. They just can't cope with wishy-washy supply numbers from their members. That makes sense to me. If you and I had a contract to provide X amount of a product but your sales on the side meant I had to settle for less than X, I wouldn't want to continue business either under that circumstance.

                                I do think people tend to over-react regarding raw. With today's knowledge and testing, I think it's definitely possible to produce raw products that are safe. Most harmful contaminants don't come from the cow; they occur during handling of the milk after it leaves the cow. My primary concerns would be how the dairy was operated, how the cows were managed, what their collection/bottling process was, and what steps they take to identify and isolate anything afflicted with lysteriosis, which can be shed in the milk. But that's a total separate subject from OV trying to manage their numbers.
                                "I did know once, only I've sort of forgotten." - Winnie the Pooh

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by Bluey View Post
                                  Of course you don't like, because the studies found that there is more hype than truth to those new "back to nature" products being all that they are claimed to be, once you put DATA behind them.
                                  there's data and then there's "data".
                                  ************
                                  "Of course it's hard. It's supposed to be hard. It's the Hard that makes it great."

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                                  • #18
                                    fears that a foodborne illness outbreak associated with an Organic Valley member's farm would tarnish the reputation of the cooperative...
                                    "We're opposed," said Pete Kennedy, an attorney with the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. "It's cheating the cooperative's members out of selling raw milk. They're not competing with Organic Valley. If anything, they can help Organic Valley's reputation."
                                    While I think the decision has mostly to do with co-op rules and that milk supply issue they discussed, this can't be overlooked. Frankly if someone does get ill from unpasteurized milk the media won't delve into the niceties of what is and isn't separate from the co-op itself. If one of its members "OMGpoisons" the public, the co-op's reputation will suffer.

                                    Mr. Kennedy's statement illustrates that. Somehow he believes that distributing this raw milk to people who co-own the cows, a practice the proponents of which swear up and down is completely separate from OV and would not affect its reputation in any way, can help OV's reputation. I refuse to believe that he doesn't see the inverse - that an outbreak would harm OV's reputation even though the milk never enters the public consumption channels.
                                    Proud Member Of The Lady Mafia

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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by tle View Post
                                      there's data and then there's "data".
                                      Yes, but with organic, there is no data to support many of those claims and some data now against them, see the posted links.

                                      You can't have it both ways, say others data is no good, when you were winging your advertising on presumption, with no data.

                                      There is danger in raw milk, even with today's testing and yes, unlike what someone else stated above, some of that comes, not from contamination in the handling only, but directly from the cows, like undulant fever.

                                      Just look at the USDA figures for problems with milk and you will see that most today come from raw milk, at least the last ones published last April I read were, because more and more people are using raw milk and the problems are becoming more clear.

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                                      • #20
                                        anecdotal: I heard my BIL had to have the raw milk as a kid because he was barfing up his formula and regular milk
                                        *shrug*

                                        I had plenty of raw milk at my grandma's, directly from the neighbors tank.

                                        a) i don't get much of the hysteria, though apparently there had been a huge recall of cheese in Europe this summer...

                                        b) I am not sure how pasteurized plays in, but homogenized milk is impossible to do anything with other than drink and cook...

                                        and I was thoroughly confused 1/4th through....

                                        (and I find the 'no mineral fertilizer' bit always laughable in this organic context...)

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