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Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rulemaking Background

Organic Trade Association sues USDA over failure to advance organic livestock standards

As of September 13, 2017, the Organic Trade Association has taken 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. Read the full press release and learn more

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.

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

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

OTA Weighs in on Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Final Rule

On Friday, June 9, 2017, the Organic Trade Association added our voice to the over 47,000 comments on the federal register, strongly encouraging the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow the final Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule to become effective without any further delays on November 14, 2017. 

After over a decade of stakeholder input, unanimous NOSB recommendations, and notice and comment rulemaking, OTA believes the OLPP final rule strikes the right balance between organic market expectations and the realities of commercial scale livestock and poultry production.  In an effort to rally as much public input as possible, OTA engaged a digital social media campaign which was responsible for over 10,000 comments - >20% of the total comments submitted! We sincerely thank those of you who provided your own public comments to this docket. 

USDA first released the final OLPP rule at the end of the Obama administration.  After delaying the rule’s effective date an additional 60 days, USDA, under the Trump administration, opened a comment period seeking input from stakeholders on 4 possible options for the final rule:

(1) Let the rule become effective. This means that the rule would become effective on November 14, 2017.   

(2) Suspend the rule indefinitely. During the suspension, USDA could consider whether to implement, modify or withdraw the final rule.   

(3) Delay the effective date of the rule further, beyond the effective date of November 14, 2017.

(4) Withdraw the rule so that USDA would not pursue implementation of the rule.

This comment period closed last week on June 9, 2017, after over 47,000 comments were submitted.  The vast majority of these comments, which included organic producers and handlers, brands, certifiers, trade groups, consumer and environmental NGOs, and consumers supported “Option 1,” which would allow the rule to become effective on November 14, 2017.  OTA supported this position as well.

Opponents to the final rule include a small minority of organic producers and conventional agriculture trade groups.  Those opposed to the final rule largely cited biosecurity and food safety concerns which had already been addressed by USDA in its final rulemaking and which were not based on any new science brought forward since the final rule was released.  Some commenters expressed their belief that the National Organic Program (NOP) did not have the authority to engage in rulemaking pertaining to the care of organic livestock and poultry.

OTA thoroughly refutes these arguments in our final comments to USDA by pointing towards the inter-agency review of the final rule by USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service and FDA’s food safety staff.  This review indicated that the provisions included in the final rule would not increase biosecurity or food safety risks, primarily because of the continued, and further clarified, allowance for producers to temporarily confine organic flocks to protect against exposure to poultry diseases and food borne pathogens.

OTA’s comments also included a legal analysis of the rule and National Organic Program’s (NOP) authority under the Organic Foods Production Act, as it pertains to rulemaking that regulates the care of organic livestock and poultry.  According to this analysis, NOP is well within its scope of authority to promulgate these rules, especially considering they are the product of lengthy public process through the National Organic Standards Board and notice and comment rulemaking.  OTA will be conducting a preliminary analysis of the 47,000 comments received on this rule and will be monitoring developments moving forward. 

OTA is committed to seeing this rule become effective as soon as possible to ensure continued trust in the organic seal and a level playing field for all organic livestock and poultry producers.  

OTA Comments Submitted June 9, 2017

Final rule released on organic livestock &, poultry welfare

On January 19, 2017 USDA published the final rule on animal welfare standards for organic livestock and poultry in the Federal Register. The Office of Management and Budget had been reviewing the rule since the public comment period ended in July. Based on recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board, the final rule:

  • Establishes minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for poultry
  • Clarifies how producers and handlers must treat livestock and chickens to ensure their health and well-being throughout life, including transport and slaughter, and
  • Specifies which physical alterations are allowed and prohibited in organic livestock and poultry production.

The National Organic Program has provided a suite of resources regarding the final regulation.

On July 13, 2016 OTA submitted final comments to the National Organic Program on a proposed rule to clarify existing federal organic regulations related to animal welfare standards. The comments were shaped by the work of its Animal Welfare Task Force. Read OTA's comments.

On April 7, 2016, USDA posted a proposed rule to clarify existing federal organic regulations related to animal welfare standards. The rule published to the federal register on April 13. This rulemaking is based on the 2011 NOSB Recommendation which sets standards for indoor and outdoor space requirements for organic poultry and livestock, and adds definitions to which practices are allowed and prohibited under organic regulations.

Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards

76% of organic farmers already allow their flocks to have real outdoor access. Claims that outdoor access requirements for organic birds raise disease concerns simply don't pass scrutiny. All USDA and FDA health and safety rules remain in place. A less-stressed flock is a healthier flock – that's organic. Learn more from USDA about biosecurity protections in organic poultry operations

Producing food that meets the USDA Organic label is a choice for farmers and consumers. An ongoing review process by the National Organic Standard Board and USDA keeps that standard strong. Animal welfare, which includes healthy living conditions and the best animal husbandry practices, has always been a high priority of organic producers. In fact, USDA’s National Organic Program’s final rule was the first USDA regulation to mention animal welfare, requiring outdoor access for all organic poultry and livestock and living conditions that accommodate for the health and natural behaviors of animals.

The Organic Trade Association supports the process to strengthen and improve organic animal welfare standards and supported The National Organic Standard Board’s 2011 recommendation to USDA on proposed rules, which included standards for indoor and outdoor space requirements for organic poultry and livestock, and added definitions to which practices are allowed and prohibited under organic regulations.