USDA failed to finalize a rule that would close a loophole in organic regulations that apply to the dairy industry.
The rule, known as the Origin of Livestock Rule, would close this loophole by more clearly defining regulations for transitioning conventional livestock into organic production. In the appropriations package for fiscal year 2020, Congress set a 180-day deadline for the USDA National Organic Program to finalize the rule – that deadline has now passed.
National Farmers Union joined 70 other farm and agricultural groups in sending a letter to members of Congress urging them to "ensure that the agency complies with the law and finalizes the Origin of Livestock rule as soon as possible."
The letter reads, "The Origin of Livestock rule will close the loopholes by specifying that organic dairy animals must be raised organically from the last third of gestation or be raised organically for one year if transitioning a conventional herd to organic, which is allowed only once. Cycling dairy animals in and out of organic production must be prohibited, and once a distinct herd is transitioned to organic, all animals must be raised organically from the last third of gestation."
The group emphasized that consumers trust the organic label and failing to close loopholes that don't meet consumer expectations put consumer trust at risk.
"The delay in issuing a final rule has resulted in economic harm for organic dairy farmers from low pay prices caused by an oversupply of organic milk that is enabled by loopholes in the current rule," the groups said in the letter. "Because the need to strengthen the standards for organic livestock is so clearly causing harm, when the NOP accepted public comments on this rule in 2015, the vast majority of the original comments supported making these changes."
Continued implementation delays will have dire economic impacts for organic dairy producers.
"It is past time for the NOP to finalize the rule and provide much-needed clarity requested by the organic community. We urge you to make sure that the NOP complies with Congress’ mandate and finalizes the origin of organic livestock rule as soon as possible," the letter writers said.
Others signing the letter include: National Organic Coalition, National Farmers Organization, National Family Farm Coalition, Organic Trade Association and Organic Seed Alliance. See the letter for the complete list of signatories.