Cornucopia’s Take: According to the organic certifier MOFGA, the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Agriculture is working to stop the controversial organic animal welfare rule which has already been passed by the USDA and should already be in effect. Please submit your comment today, urging the USDA to let the rule become effective on November 14.
Policy rider threatens organic animal welfare rule
Sustainable Food News
Organic certification agency says Senate amendment would ‘undermine integrity of organic seal’
There is reportedly an effort underway in the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Agriculture to block any attempt by the Department of Agriculture to move the controversial Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) rule forward.
That’s according to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), which said it recently “learned” of the legislative maneuver and that it “could consist of a policy rider aimed at blocking funds for drafting, preparing and publishing either an interim rule or a final rule.”
Last month, the Trump administration had delayed the organic animal welfare rule for at least another six months.
In essence, the OLPP, now with an effective date of November 14, aims to ensure organic livestock and poultry living “in pasture-based systems utilize production practices that support their well-being and natural behavior,” the USDA said. Outdoor access for poultry is a prominent issue in the final rule.
USDA: Final rule has ‘significant policy, legal issues’
Citing “significant policy and legal issues addressed within the [final rule] that warrant further review,” the USDA laid out four options the agency may take with regard to the organic animal welfare rule.
The four options include:
- Let the rule become effective on November 14.
- Suspend the rule indefinitely
- Delay the November 14 effective date of the rule further
- Withdraw the rule
The agency has asked the public to weigh in on which of the actions “would be best” for it to take until June 9. Comments can be submitted online.
“Unfortunately, if a proposed Senate amendment is approved, USDA will not have a chance to take these comments into account and finalize the rule,” said MOFGA. “The amendment seeks to stop USDA from moving forward on finalizing these regulations. This would undermine the National Organic Program and the integrity of the organic seal.”
MOFGA, which currently certifies 44 poultry farms, 68 dairies, 20 farms raising beef, sheep and goats, and another 17 farms producing pork, is blaming large-scale poultry producers in Arkansas, Mississippi, Kansas, and Michigan for trying to stop the rulemaking process.
The final rule, among other things, essentially prohibits the widespread use of covered porches. It requires laying hens to have year-round access to an outdoor area with a minimum of 50 percent soil. A maximum of 50 percent of the outdoor area may be gravel, concrete, or surfaces other than soil or soil with vegetative cover.
Such a requirement would mean big infrastructure changes at major egg producers like Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch Inc., based in Saranac, Mich. About a year ago, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, (D-Mich.), ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, spoke to the challenge the requirements posed to Herbruck’s.
“Nationwide, the demand for organic eggs has more than doubled since 2012, and producers like the Herbruck’s in Michigan have continued to step up to meet the need,” Stabenow said. “Now is a critical time to ensure that we continue to support these organic producers so organic eggs can continue to be available and affordable for American families.”
Story courtesy of the influential daily industry newsletter, Sustainable Food News. For subscription information:https://www.sustainablefoodnews.com/register.php