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USDA urged to act on organic rule

More than 500 comments received on USDA's Economic Analysis Report on the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule.

The National Farmers Union is urging USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service to finalize the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule.

"NFU continues to stand in strong support of the OLPP Rule, which strengthens the animal welfare standards for organic livestock production," NFU President Rob Larew, wrote in a letter to USDA's AMS.

The rule, which was published in January 2017, would clarify animal welfare standards under the National Organic Program by outlining how organic livestock is raised, handled, transported and slaughtered.

Now, organic certifiers are inconsistently applying animal welfare standards to farming and ranching operations, causing confusion among consumers and undermining the integrity of the organic label. By providing clearer guidelines, the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule would mitigate the problem by standardizing organic livestock and poultry practices that producers need to meet for the voluntary National Organic Program.

The rule was withdrawn in March 2018.

In March 2020, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia agreed with the Organic Trade Association's lawsuit against the USDA that the withdrawal of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule was based on a flawed analysis, according to an article in The National Law Review.

On April 23, USDA's AMS published a Federal Register Notice requesting public comment on an Economic Analysis Report related to the OLPP final rule published on Jan. 19, 2017, and withdrawn in March 2018. The Economic Analysis Report summarizes the agency's review of the regulatory impact analyses for both the OLPP final rule and OLPP final rule withdrawl.

"It is disappointing that OLPP is not in effect today, and that more than three years after the Rule could have gone into effect, USDA is seeking comment on a new Economic Analysis Report, in reference to the Regulatory Impact Analysis  for the OLPP Final Rule and the rule withdrawal," Larew wrote.

Comments were due March 26. More than 500 comments were received.  

Among the comments:

"I fully support the withdrawal of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule. The benefits do not outweigh the costs to the poultry industry. By mandating certain measures regarding outdoor access and space requirements, there is a potential for not only economic burden but also a negative impact on the safety and wellbeing of the birds. As a licensed veterinarian, my primary concern is regarding animal health."

"I support the enactment of a strong OLPP rule that establishes strict animal welfare standards governing the treatment of animals raised under the organic label. The public expects that when it buys organic eggs, milk, or meat that the animals have regular access to the outdoors, are not subjected to routine mutilations, and are not kept in severe confinement. Farmers who adhere to strong standards are put at a disadvantage when other farmers are allowed to market under the "organic" label but take shortcuts in terms of animal care."

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