Organic fertilizer fraud nets four 78-month terms

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A federal judge sentenced a California man to 6 1/2 years in prison and ordered him to pay a $9 million judgment for defrauding the organic industry with synthetic fertilizer that he represented as certified for use in organic operations.

Judge Anthony Ishii ordered Kenneth Nelson, a 59-year-old Bakersfield resident, to begin serving four concurrent 78-month sentences on Jan. 24. Nelson is the former owner of Port Organic Products Ltd. and affiliated businesses, including AgroMar Inc., Sail On Ag Products Inc., Desert Organic Express Inc., Action Fertilizer, and Microbial Assisted Soil Health Inc.

In addition, Nelson owes restitution to victims, which will be determined later by the court. Nelson must serve three years’ probation after his release from prison.

Nelson could have faced 20 years and fines up to $250,000 on each of four counts of mail fraud. He was originally charged with 28 counts, but in a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Fresno, Calif., he admitted to four counts.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kirk Sheriff, who prosecuted the case against Nelson, said it is his understanding that the federal system requires prisoners to serve 85% of their sentence before being eligible for early release.

In the plea agreement, Nelson admitted to making $9 million in profit on $40 million in sales of fertilizers including Agrolizer, Marizyme and Fishilizer from 2003 through 2009. The mail fraud charges stem from documents he sent to the Washington State Department of Agriculture and the Organic Materials Review Institute to have the fertilizers listed as acceptable for use in organic operations.

Nelson told the certifying organizations the fertilizers were made from materials such as fish meal and bird guano after he intentionally altered the formulas to include aqueous ammonia, ammonium sulfate, and urea.

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Steve Savage    
encinitas, CA  |  November, 22, 2012 at 01:22 AM

The plants didn't care. They only take up nitrogen as nitrate (NO3) or ammonia(NH4) they really don't fret about whether those ions come from organic or synthetic sources. The fraud in this case was only against the people who pay more for organic vs conventional.

WI  |  November, 26, 2012 at 03:56 PM

Maybe the plants don't care where their nutritents come from but the animals, people eating those plants care. The use and overuse of chemicals is one of the causes of cancer, etc. THat's why there is a growing market in organics because people are finally getting it!

az  |  November, 26, 2012 at 04:12 PM

Pat, where is the proof that cancer is created only from rock based chemical fertilizers? Where is the proof that by using natural/organic based fertilizers you escape cancer?

November, 26, 2012 at 04:35 PM

Those who build fertilizers and GMO seeds are companies in it just for the profit, but the big fraud is that those who pedal the whole "organic" and "non-GMO" are billionaires and also in it just for the money, they are just a lot better at hiding their names out of the media, and cloaking their motives as "saving the world". They fully expect gullible urbanites to respond like sheep to fear, and never let logic or science enter the debate. If you doubt me, why not check it out for yourself? Find out where the funding for the organic movement and non-GMO movement originates, and then cross reference that with who benefits most financially from the sale of organic fertilizers and non-GMO seed, the importation of Chinese organic food, etc. This info is all available if you search, but most organic fans dont want to know.

Ag Nut    
idaho  |  November, 26, 2012 at 04:39 PM

Plants don't care what for the nitrogen is from and truthfully organics cannot provide enough nitrogen to make decent yields without long crop rotations of legumes to build the nitrogen up. fact is organic practices can only feed four billion people. when the people start to go hungry that is when they will get it, you can't feed the world with Organics. If the organic practices continue sooner or later someone will starve, like two billion some ones, we need more food production not less, and to manage farm ground in such away is a inefficient use of our natural resources .

Ag Nut    
Idaho  |  November, 26, 2012 at 05:01 PM

The people pushing organics are the ultra rich, these are the people who have enough money to eat well no matter how high the price of food goes. There is a list of the members of the organic coalition on the internet all of them as far as I know are ultra rich. Yes, they use fear and partial facts to scare everyone in to this organic frenzy, those of use with an education in agronomy don't buy in to the argument . I have seen study after study that proves organics will never be able to even come close to feeding the world. About the person claiming that chemicals use causes cancer, well organic fertilizer all has the same chemical make up as so called chemical fertilizer but in organic fertilizer the concentration is much lower, this is why organic production can't produce a decent crop of corn without five years of alfalfa first to build up the nitrogen and yes it has the same chemical makeup as the chemical version. I think all the organic people should read DR.Borlaug's study on organic production then maybe you would understand just a little about what it takes to make crops grow and obtain the yields that sustain the worlds population.

Missouri  |  November, 26, 2012 at 06:05 PM

Definition of organic: "A method of separting someone from more of their dollars for a product that offers no additional benefits in health or nutritional content compared to the very same version produced conventionally." It is a marketing technique similar to that used by an ultra expensive steak house that does not simply sell the steak, but sells the "sizzle" of their steaks to separate themselves from other less expensive steak restaurants. In both cases, the customer believes he is getting additional benefits for the extra money paid even though the reality is quite different. The motto of the story......a sucker will always be available for the practicing con artists out there.

Lee Williams    
Moses Lake WA  |  November, 26, 2012 at 06:19 PM

Organic food is for the trendy elite. If you can afford it and think it's the food equivalent of the fountain of youth go for it, but........, don't expect the starving people and the poor of the world to give a hoot about your often misconceived ideas about the benifits of organic food. I have a doctorate degree and spent the last 22 years of my 42 year professional life in food safty,zoonotic diseases and public health issues. I once told my daughter [who wanted to be trendy] that the difference between conventional crops and organic was that conventional used good clean engineered products and organic used E.coli, salmonella ridden animal sh _ _! Just my opinion.

MN  |  November, 27, 2012 at 01:08 PM

Organic simply by definition means that it contains carbon. Inorganic nutrient products contain no carbon. The plants do no respond any differently to the essential nutrient ions they use. As long as all essential nutrients are available the plant will grow healthy irregardless of the nutrient form used (commercial fert, manure, fish parts etc.). The true "crooks" are those that try to sell people that organic food is in some way healthier for consumption than those grown by traditional methods. These individuals are no different than the "snake oil elixir salesman" of years past. They are trying to make a profit by playing on peoples emotions. Yes the Monsanto's of the world are in business for profit but they are not hiding that fact and without the technological innovations we are going to have many more starving people across the world than there already is. You want to see a revolution let's have everything raised organically and once the production levels drop and the people of the world can't be fed see what happens. Maybe all medical research and advances should be stopped then also. Is that the kind of population control the organic liberal endorser's would like to see? Not saying we can't produce food organically, there will just be a lot less to go around and those who support the organic lifestyle should be prepared to accept the consequences.

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