In this file:
· USDA: USDA Decides Not to Impose Additional Regulatory Requirements for Organic Producers and Handlers
USDA withdraws animal welfare rule
· US meat industry praises organic rule withdrawal
· Organic Trade Association blasts USDA withdrawal of organic animal welfare ruleAssociation calls action “egregious,” says battle will continue in court
· American Farm Bureau Cheers USDA's Withdrawal of Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule
NFU: Organic Livestock Standards Rule Withdrawn to Detriment of
Family Farmers, Organic Label
· That organic chicken almost got a full foot of space. Now, USDA has withdrawn its animal welfare rules
USDA Decides Not to Impose Additional Regulatory Requirements for Organic Producers and Handlers
Source: USDA Office of Communications
Mar 12, 2018
WASHINGTON, March 12, 2018 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the decision to withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule published on January 19, 2017.
The rule would have increased federal regulation of livestock and poultry for certified organic producers and handlers. The withdrawal becomes effective May 13, 2018.
Significant policy and legal issues were identified after the rule published in January 2017. After careful review and two rounds of public comment, USDA has determined that the rule exceeds the Department’s statutory authority, and that the changes to the existing organic regulations could have a negative effect on voluntary participation in the National Organic Program, including real costs for producers and consumers.
“The existing robust organic livestock and poultry regulations are effective,” said USDA Marketing and Regulatory Program Undersecretary Greg Ibach. “The organic industry’s continued growth domestically and globally shows that consumers trust the current approach that balances consumer expectations and the needs of organic producers and handlers.”
According to USDA reports for 2017, the number of certified organic operations increased domestically by seven percent and globally by 11 percent. Industry estimates show that organic sales in the United States reached almost $47 billion in 2016, reflecting an increase of almost $3.7 billion since 2015.
The Department carefully considered public comments and the relative costs and benefits for both producers and consumers of imposing the proposed additional regulations.
More information on the OLPP final rule is available in the March 12, 2018, Federal Register, and on the USDA National Organic Program web page.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).
USDA withdraws animal welfare rule
By Lydia Wheeler, The Hill
The Trump administration has decided to withdraw an Obama-era rule that would have set new standards for the way animals should be treated if their meat is going to be sold as “certified organic.”
The Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Monday that it is officially withdrawing the final rule it delayed for the third time in November. The agency said the rule, which was set to take effect in May, exceeded the department’s statutory authority and could have had a negative effect on voluntary participation in the National Organic Program.
“The existing robust organic livestock and poultry regulations are effective,” Greg Ibach, under secretary of Agriculture for marketing and regulatory programs, said in a statement.
“The organic industry’s continued growth domestically and globally shows that consumers trust the current approach that balances consumer expectations and the needs of organic producers and handlers.”
Finalized under the Obama administration in April 2016, the rule largely dictated how producers and handlers participating in the National Organic Program are required to treat livestock and poultry to ensure their wellbeing.
The rule stipulated, for example, that poultry must be housed in spaces that are big enough for the birds to move freely, stretch their wings, stand normally and engage in natural behaviors. Livestock, meanwhile, must be provided access to an outdoor space year round.
In withdrawing the final rule, the USDA said its Agricultural Marketing Service only has the congressional authority to regulate aspects of animal care that relate to the ingestion or administration of nonorganic substances.
The Organic Trade Association (OTA), which first filed suit against the USDA...
US meat industry praises organic rule withdrawal
By Aidan Fortune, GlobalMeatNews
The US meat industry has welcomed the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule.
The proposed rule would have increased federal regulation of livestock and poultry for certified organic producers and handlers, and had largely been opposed by the domestic meat industry. The withdrawal becomes effective on 13 May 2018.
When announcing the withdrawal, the USDA said: “Significant policy and legal issues were identified after the rule published in January 2017.
“After careful review and two rounds of public comment, USDA has determined that the rule exceeds the Department’s statutory authority, and that the changes to the existing organic regulations could have a negative effect on voluntary participation in the National Organic Program, including real costs for producers and consumers.”
USDA marketing and regulatory program undersecretary Greg Ibach said: “The existing robust organic livestock and poultry regulations are effective. The organic industry’s continued growth, domestically and globally, shows that consumers trust the current approach that balances consumer expectations and the needs of organic producers and handlers.”
According to USDA reports for 2017, the number of certified organic operations increased domestically by 7% and globally by 11%. Industry estimates showed that organic food sales in the US reached almost $47 billion in 2016, reflecting an increase of almost $3.7 billion since 2015.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association president Kevin Kester welcomed the decision.
“Common sense scored an all-too-rare victory in Washington, DC,” he said. “Not only did USDA not have the legal authority to implement animal welfare regulations, but the rule would have also vilified conventionally raised livestock without recognising our commitment to raise all cattle humanely, regardless of the marketing program they are in. Secretary Sonny Perdue deserves a lot of credit for yet another common-sense decision that will benefit America’s cattle producers.”
The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) also praised the rule’s withdrawal...
Organic Trade Association blasts USDA withdrawal of organic animal welfare ruleAssociation calls action “egregious,” says battle will continue in court
Source: Organic Trade Association
via GlobeNewswire/Business Insider - Mar. 12, 2018
Washington D.C., March 12, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Organic Trade Association on Monday strongly condemned the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its withdrawal of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices regulation, saying the Department had – without regard for public comment and without respect for legal authorities -- irresponsibly thwarted a fully vetted regulation overwhelmingly supported by the organic industry and the public.
The association said it is intensifying its efforts in the courts to resolve the issue, and that it will be immediately amending its official complaint against USDA to challenge the Department’s latest attempt to kill the rule. The Organic Trade Association noted that last week it requested that oral arguments now be heard on its lawsuit against USDA over the Department’s failure to put into effect the new organic livestock standards.
“This most recent egregious attempt by the Department to ignore the will of the organic industry and consumers does not halt our judicial review, but, in fact, furthers our resolve,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “USDA’s unconscionable action does not deter us. 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 Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule was published on Jan. 19, 2017, and the government has now attempted six times – either through the rule-making process or through court filings -- to delay the implementation of the rule.
72,000 call on USDA to implement the rule…50 say no
In its notice to withdraw the rule, USDA recognizes that the Department received roughly 72,000 comments (in a truncated comment period during the holiday season) with an overwhelming majority supporting OLPP. USDA also recognizes that of those comments, only approximately 50 supported the withdrawal -- yet another clear disregard of the record by USDA in its latest attempt to kill this final rule.
USDA is withdrawing the rule based on its current interpretation of 7 U.S. C. 6905, citing that the OLPP rule exceeds USDA’s statutory authority. USDA wrongly alleges that the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA) does not authorize the animal welfare provisions of the OLPP final rule, and, in doing so, cites definitions of organic outside the law.
“It is notable that USDA cites the Merriam-Webster dictionary to justify a definition of ‘organic,’” said Batcha. “Merriam-Webster also defines outdoor as ‘not enclosed; having no roof,’ and porches as ’a covered area…having a separate roof.’ Organic standards already require that organic producers provide their animals access to the outdoors. So, by the assessment from Merriam-Webster, a source which USDA endorses in its official notice, porches are clearly not allowed in organic.”
The OLPP addresses four broad areas of organic livestock and poultry practices: living conditions, animal healthcare, transport, and slaughter. The rule refines and clarifies a series of organic animal welfare recommendations incorporated into the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, which established the federal organic regulations. Most importantly, it stops the use of “porches” from being allowed in organic poultry production. This is a critical clarification of the existing organic standards, and levels the playing field for organic poultry producers.
“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. “The organic sector depends on USDA to set organic standards fairly and according to the law. When USDA fails to do this, it is time for the organic community to insist that it live up to its responsibility.”
For the complete background on this issue, see https://ota.com/livestockpractices.
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. OTA is the leading voice for the organic trade in the United States, representing over 9,500 organic businesses across 50 states. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA's Board of Directors is democratically elected by its members. OTA's mission is to promote and protect ORGANIC with a unifying voice that serves and engages its diverse members from farm to marketplace.
American Farm Bureau Cheers USDA's Withdrawal of Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule
Source - American Farm Bureau Federation
via Oklahoma Farm Report - 12 Mar 2018
The following statement was released by American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall in response to USDA's decision to withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule:
“The American Farm Bureau supports USDA’s decision to withdraw the misguided Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule. Livestock health and well-being is a priority for all farmers and ranchers. We rely on trained professionals, including animal scientists, nutritionists and veterinarians, to ensure the health and safety of our food. The rule did not promote food safety or animal welfare. It went beyond the intent of the Organic Production Act by allowing for animal welfare standards and metrics to become part of the organic label.
“Had the rule gone into effect, forcing organic farmers and ranchers to arbitrarily change their production practices, many would have been driven out of the organic sector or out of business entirely...
Organic Livestock Standards Rule Withdrawn to Detriment of Family Farmers, Organic Label
Source: National Farmers Union (NFU)
Mar 12, 2018
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today withdrew the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule, a set of standards that organic producers would have had to meet to qualify for the voluntary organic label for livestock and poultry.
USDA’s move will exacerbate consumer confusion about the meaning of the organic label, and it will ultimately negatively impact family organic producers who adhere to strict, voluntary organic standards, according to National Farmers Union (NFU).
NFU President Roger Johnson issued the following statement in response to USDA’s action:
“The voluntary practices that farmers need to meet to qualify for a USDA ‘organic’ label have always been governed by those that created the organic movement and who adhere to the strict standards that are agreed upon by the National Organic Standards Board. This body directed the National Organic Program to issue the OLPP standards in order to have some consistency in what is considered to be an organic practice.
“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. It puts them on an uneven playing field with the types of operations who skirt the rules, yet also benefit from the same USDA organic label.”
National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
That organic chicken almost got a full foot of space. Now, USDA has withdrawn its animal welfare rules
The United States Department of Agriculture has officially withdrawn the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices, regulations that were years in the making.
by H. Claire Brown, The New Food Economy
March 12th, 2018
Update, March 12, 12:41 p.m., EST: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Monday, March 12 announced its intention to officially withdraw the Obama-era livestock rules that would have strengthened animal welfare requirements for organically certified meat and dairy.
The Department said in a press release that the agency does not have the authority to implement such regulations, and imposing new requirements would discourage farmers from obtaining organic certification. “The existing robust organic livestock and poultry regulations are effective,” said USDA Marketing and Regulatory Program Undersecretary Greg Ibach in a press release.
Critics of the withdrawal will likely argue that organic certification guarantees very little with regards to animal welfare standards; some say the decision to allow egg operations in particular to continue confining the animals’ range of motion is a giveaway to mega-sized operations.
Had they gone into effect, the rules would’ve ensured that each organic laying hen gets a full square foot of space when it’s indoors. They also would’ve clarified what “access to the outdoors” means for livestock: screened-in porches would no longer count as outdoor space. The rules also would’ve added some new requirements for animal handling and transport to slaughter.
For Albert Straus, the first certified organic dairy farmer west of the Mississippi, the withdrawal is a disappointment. “I felt that the proposed rule is something we’ve worked on for years that was a consensus of the industry,” he told The New Food Economy in December, when USDA first announced its proposed withdrawal and said it was seeking public comment. “It’s rare in this day and age to have any influence on regulations and a common goal.”
As Lynne Curry wrote in her thorough backgrounder, the language in the current organic standards that govern animal welfare is pretty loose. The result is that it’s possible for a certified organic chicken coop to look very similar to a conventional chicken coop. Some farmers think that’s a bad thing: Organic eggs typically fetch a higher price, the logic goes, and that higher price should represent sunny pastures and lots of room to flap around. Some farmers argue the opposite: The organic regulations require “access to the outdoors,” and if a chicken coop has a screened-in porch, it’s good to go. Curry explains that the 2002 decision to count screened-in porches as outdoor space created a rift in the organic community between small-scale farmers who were farming chickens at low density and larger farmers who could take advantage of economies of scale and sell their eggs for less. These rules were meant to address that rift...