USDA scraps organic livestock and poultry rule

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 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.

Many think the rule went well beyond the original intent of the Organic Production Act by allowing for animal welfare standards and metrics to become part of the organic label.

The rule was originally to be finalized on Nov. 14, 2017, but Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue last fall announced a 180-day extension, making May 14, 2018, the new implementation date. Perdue ultimately heeded the request of organic livestock and poultry farmers and the organizations that represent them, including Farm Bureau, to abandon the rule altogether.

“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,” said Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation president. “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.”

These actions, though, 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).

“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,” said Roger Johnson, NFU president.“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.”

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