Trump axes Obama-era rule on organic farming

USDA kills animal welfare rule for organic meat

Joe Zlomek SXC

USDA officials said the rule exceeded the department's statutory authority and that tightening the rules would reduce participation in the National Organic Program.

It said the administration was irresponsibly ditching regulations that had been prepared carefully and were backed enthusiastically by organic producers and by consumers.

While Greg Ibach, undersecretary for the USDA's marketing and regulatory program, claimed that "the existing robust organic livestock and poultry regulations are effective", organic farmers, animal rights advocates and consumers who have supported the enhanced regulations-which were published on January 19, 2017 and would have taken effect in May-expressed disappointment with the move. The OTA argues that USDA chose to roll back the livestock and poultry rules without consulting the National Organic Standards Board. "Secretary Sonny Perdue deserves a lot of credit for yet another common-sense decision that will benefit America's cattle producers".

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The rule, created through more than a decade of public input, strengthened the minimum practices required of organic livestock producers. The USDA delayed implementation of the rule three times before yesterday's announcement that it would formally withdraw the rule.

"The vast majority of organic farmers that opt-in to organic certification strongly believe in providing their animals with sufficient space, meaningful outdoor access, proper lighting, appropriate diets, and clean conditions", says Harsh.

The USDA found "significant" legal and policy issues with the rule; after accepting several round of public comment, the department announced in December 2017 it meant to withdraw the rule outright rather than update it.

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"Consumers seeking organic animal products for their families have helped grow organic to the almost $50 billion industry it is today", says Cameron Harsh, Senior Manager for Organic and Animal Policy at Center for Food Safety.

"USDA's action to withdraw the OLPP rule is a mistake that will cost the family producers who already adhere to strict standards in order to meet "organic" standards. USDA is hoping this issue will go away, but [this] latest action by USDA will only invigorate and solidify more support for this regulation". The USDA has also ignored comments from key members of Congress that contradict the agency's recently-formed interpretation.

"Since the filing of our lawsuit last September, a host of organic stakeholders representing thousands of organic farming families, organic certifiers and organic policymakers - along with leading animal welfare and retail groups speaking out for millions of consumers - have joined our challenge", added Batcha. NCBA President Kevin Kester said the rule would have vilified producers raising non-organic livestock. Importantly, the rule closed a loophole in current regulations that allow large poultry companies to skirt the law and use screened-in porches to satisfy "outdoor access" requirements.

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