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Home > OTA sues USDA over animal welfare standards

OTA sues USDA over animal welfare standards

Organic Trade Association to take the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to court over organic animal welfare rule

AlertOn November 9, 2017, USDA pre-published an announcement in the Federal Register that the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule would be further delayed until May 14, 2018.

In defense of the integrity of the USDA Organic seal and of organic standards, the Organic Trade Association in September filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture seeking judicial review of the Trump Administration's delay of final organic livestock production rules. The lawsuit is pending and the USDA must answer it by mid-November. 

The Organic Trade Association has anticipated a further "walk back" by the Trump Administration of fourteen years of work to improve and clarify organic animal agriculture regulations. Any steps by USDA to unwind the changes to federal organic regulations are being taken against a backdrop of nearly universal support among the organic community, animal welfare advocates and consumers for the rules that USDA has now rejected. We will continue this fight in the court, where a federal judge will now evaluate whether the Administration has wrongly ignored the laws that require consultation with the National Organic Standards Board and those requiring informing the public and providing consumers a chance to comment on organic policies before they take effect. 

The Organic Trade Association will continue to fight to uphold organic standards that this Administration continues to willfully ignore by repeatedly delaying this fully vetted and final voluntary organic standard.

We will see the department in court and are confident that we will prevail on this important issue for the organic sector.


On September 13, 2017, the Organic Trade Association took action to defend the organic seal and organic standards by filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture over its failure to put into effect new organic livestock standards.

AlertOrganic Trade Association sues USDA over failure to advance organic livestock standards. Read the full press release.
 

The suit alleges the U.S. Department of Agriculture violated the Organic Foods Production Act, and unlawfully delayed the effective date of the final livestock standards that were developed by industry and in accordance with the processes established by Congress, and with abusing the agency’s discretion by ignoring the overwhelming public record established in support of these organic standards. The trade association further contends that the Trump Administration’s Regulatory freeze order issued to federal agencies on Jan. 20, 2017, should not apply to organic standards because they are voluntary and are required only of those farms and businesses that opt in to be certified organic.

“We are standing up on behalf of the entire organic sector to protect organic integrity, advance animal welfare, and demand the government keep up with the industry and the consumer in setting organic standards.” 
–Laura Batcha, Executive Director and CEO of the Organic Trade Association.

Supporting the Organic Trade Association in the suit, as groups harmed by this protracted government inaction, are organizations representing organic livestock farmers, organic retailers and consumers.

Batcha said the Organic Trade Association’s duty to protect the U.S. organic sector and enable it to advance, to uphold the integrity of the organic seal and to honor the consumer trust in that seal compelled the association – on behalf of the organic industry -- to take the legal action against the administration.

“The organic industry takes very seriously its contract with the consumer and will not stand aside while the government holds back the meaningful and transparent choice of organic foods that deliver what the consumer wants,” said Batcha. “The government’s failure to move ahead with this fully-vetted regulation calls into question the entire process by which organic regulations are set – a process that Congress created, the industry has worked within, and consumers trust.”

“The viability of the organic market rests on consumer trust in the USDA organic seal, and trust that the organic seal represents a meaningful differentiation from other agricultural practices,” said Batcha, who noted that the board of the Organic Trade Association voted unanimously to initiate the lawsuit.

READ THE FULL PRESS RELEASE              BACKGROUND ON ORGANIC LIVESTOCK & POULTRY PRACTICES RULEMAKING             NPR COVERAGE: Organic Industry Sues USDA


The lawsuit filed by the Organic Trade Association alleges:

• That USDA has violated the Administrative Procedure Act because the repeated delays were issued without any public process.
• That USDA has violated the Administrative Procedure Act and abused its discretion by proposing action to indefinitely delay or kill the rule, in stark contrast to the established public process.
• That USDA has violated the Organic Foods Production Act and its consultation provisions enacted to apply in just these circumstances for industry and public stakeholders to revise, refine, and advance organic standards via a well defined process.
• That the Trump Administration Executive Order freezing regulations should not apply to the voluntary industry-driven organic standards that allow for busineesses to opt in or out.

The lawsuit also describes the extensive public process and overwhelming record used to develop the standards and details the faulty appeals decision from USDA on the use of “porches” to comply with the existing outdoor access requirments of the standard that have resulted in an unlevel playing field.

The Organic Trade Association asks the court to reverse the agency’s decisions to delay and eliminate options proposed by USDA to further delay, rewrite, or permanently shelve the rule -- thereby making the final livestock rule effective immediately, as written.

COMPLAINT FILED BY ORGANIC TRADE ASSOCIATION  Decleration: Pete and Gerry's Decleration: NCG Decleration: ACA

*Note Organic Valley's Decleration Document Will Be Posted Shortly.


Contact

Kelley Poole
Vice President, Government Affairs
(202) 403-8511

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