USDA withdraws proposal to stiffen rules for organic egg farms

Lloyd Doyle
March 13, 2018

The rule prohibited cruel practices like "tail docking" of cattle and transporting animals too sick or injured to endure the journey. "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 administration of Donald J. Trump has repeatedly delayed implementing the rule and had signaled that it might never move forward with it. The rule would have increased federal regulation of livestock and poultry for certified organic producers and handlers, requiring organic egg factories to provide their hens with outdoor space to graze.

"The existing robust organic livestock and poultry regulations are effective", said USDA Marketing and Regulatory Program Undersecretary Greg Ibach.

National Cattlemen's Beef Association called USDA's decision a common-sense victory.

What does the Organic Livestock Rule do? The USDA's rationale for withdrawal was severely flawed, ignoring not only the overwhelming public and industry support for the rule but the agency's own economic analyses demonstrating only minor economic impact on the industry from the rule's implementation.

"We rely on trained professionals, including animal scientists, nutritionists and veterinarians, to ensure the health and safety of our food".

Championed throughout the organic industry-from farmers to consumer groups to retailers and animal-welfare advocates-the OLPP was intended as a course correction for the $43 billion food industry, formulated to bring organic dairy, eggs and meat production into line with consumer expectations of higher animal welfare. "Millions of animals will continue to suffer each year because of the USDA's abdication of its duty to enforce meaningful organic animal welfare standards". "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, reducing the supply of organic food choices for America's consumers".

"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".

In 2016, the USDA said that at least half of US organic egg production came from operations that exclusively use roofed enclosures, known as porches, to provide outdoor access to hens. "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".

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, praised the announcement.

It said the administration was irresponsibly ditching regulations that had been prepared carefully and were backed enthusiastically by organic producers and by consumers. "I thank Secretary Perdue for listening to their concerns and withdrawing this damaging rule". The USDA's ruling preserves the status quo, and fails to establish the USDA Organic label as the "gold standard" for organics that OLPP promised.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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