Read the original article by Rita Jane Gabbett at meatingplace.com here.
USDA announced the agency has decided to withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule published on January 19, 2017. The withdrawal becomes effective May 13, 2018.
The rule would have increased federal regulation around animal housing, healthcare, transportation and slaughter practices of livestock and poultry for certified organic producers and handlers.
According to USDA, 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,” an agency news release stated.
“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.”
Among other things, the rules would have stopped organic poultry producers from using screened-in “porches” to house birds and required them instead to provide organic poultry with outdoor access.
Organic group pursues legal options
Last week, the Organic Trade Association requested that oral arguments be heard in the lawsuit it filed last September against USDA over its failure to put into effect the (now dismissed) new organic livestock standards. Before today’s decision to withdraw the rule, USDA had delayed implementation multiple times since the January 2017 final rule.
Reacting to today’s news, OTA Executive Director and CEO Laura Batcha said, “This most recent egregious attempt by the Department to ignore the will of the organic industry and consumers does not halt the Organic Trade Association’s seeking judicial review, but in fact furthers our resolve.The Organic Trade Association will be immediately amend the complaint to yet again challenge USDA”s latest attempt to kill a rule that has been fully vetted over a decade.”
Applegate, the nation’s leading natural and organic prepared meat products company, had also supported the rules.
“Our company is harmed by competition from organic livestock products that are not meeting the highest organic welfare standards,” said Gina Asoudegan, Applegate’s vice president of mission and innovation strategy. “The absence of a consistent national standard for organic livestock products and its associated additional costs harm consumers in the form of higher prices.”
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The Humane Society of the United States and The Animal Welfare Institute had also supported the now dismissed rules.
Beef group cheers decision
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Kevin Kester applauded the decision, saying, “Common sense scored an all-too-rare victory in Washington, DC, today. 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 recognizing our commitment to raise all cattle humanely, regardless of the marketing program they’re in. Secretary Sonny Perdue deserves a lot of credit for yet another common-sense decision that will benefit America’s cattle producers.”
NFU does not
National Farmers’ Union President Roger Johnson took issue with the decision, saying, “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.”