Organic industry fights back against USDA delay of animal welfare rule


By Elizabeth Crawford, Food Navigator USA



Against the vast majority of stakeholders’ wishes, the US Department of Agriculture once again is delaying the widely supported Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices because the department believes the final rule oversteps Congress’ mandate ‘for the care’ of livestock and will cost more to implement than originally outlined.


“Although animal welfare is an important USDA priority, AMS believes that the [Organic Foods Production Act of 1990’s] reference to additional regulatory standards ‘for the care’ or organically produced livestock is limited to health care practices similar to those specified by Congress in the statute, rather than as reflecting a stand-alone concern for animal welfare,”​ such as that outlined in the OLPP final rule​, USDA explains in a Federal Register notice published Nov. 9.


The agency goes on to say that the final rule, which outlines how much space organic animals need, what types of medical procedures are allowed and when, and how to humanely transport animals to slaughter, is inconsistent with USDA regulatory policy principles.


“The rule may not represent the most innovative and least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory ends; may impose costs that are not justified by the potential benefits; and may not reasonably be tethered to the OFPA’s statutory text, nature and purpose,”​ it explains.


A less subjective objection to the final rule raised by the agency is its belief that there is a “significant, material error in the mathematical calculations of the benefits estimates,”​ according to the notice.


It explains that the original calculation of benefits is flawed because “the incorrect calculation was applied for the 3 percent and 7 percent discount rates. Re-analysis using the correct mathematical calculations suggest that this error was material,”​ and it is therefore “not appropriate” ​to push the final rule forward without public comment on the revised calculation of benefits.


Based on these arguments, the agency is delaying the effective date again until May 14, 2018. This is the second delay for the rule, which was caught in the Trump Administration’s blanket delay of rules passed under the Obama Administration but not yet implemented.


The decision runs counter to most stakeholders’ desires and, in fact, only one out of the more than 47,000 comments submitted to USDA argued to delay the rule. Rather, 40,000 of the comments advocated for implementing the rule as-is. A mere 28 asked for it to be withdrawn and only “a few”​ said to suspend it, according to the Federal Register notice.


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