[This alert is over. The USDA withdrew the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule in March 2018.]

USDA Should Enact the Proposed Rule Improving Enforcement of Organic Livestock and Poultry Living Conditions

Don’t Let Factory Livestock Interests Undermine the Organic Label

Screened-in Porch as “Outdoor Access”

The USDA recently announced its intent to withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule (OLPP) from the National Organic Program. This move comes after successive delays by the agency and in spite of massive public comment in favor of implementing the rule.

Help protect the integrity of the public organic rulemaking process by submitting your comments decrying this unprecedented move by the USDA.

By the USDA’s own account, they received over 47,000 comments when the agency asked whether they should implement, delay, suspend, or withdraw the OLPP as submitted. Over 40,000 commenters supported the option to implement the OLPP as planned. In striking contrast, only 28 commenters supported the option to withdraw the rule (presumably representing corporate agribusiness interests).

What is at stake? The OLPP would require a set amount of outdoor space for poultry and improves some management practices for all livestock under the organic label. Most importantly, the OLPP would close a loophole allowing some factory farms to use small screened-in porches as “outdoor access” for laying hens. These industrial “organic” farms confine as many as 200,000 birds in a single building.

Despite over 40,000 comments in favor of implementing the OLPP, the USDA thinks current growth in the organic egg market is evidence of consumer confidence in the label. However, this rapid growth also indicates that industrial-organic egg producers, the same producers using the screened-in porches, are taking up an increasing percentage of sales by undercutting the costs of family farmers. Most consumers who buy organic eggs are unaware of the deception.

The USDA is withdrawing the OLPP based on an incorrect legal interpretation of the Organic Foods Production Act, the law passed by Congress charging the agency with overseeing farming and food production. The agency suggested that the proposed regulations were an overreach and burdensome. However, the organic industry, with backing by Congress, has always asked for strict regulation and enforcement, since that is universally recognized as the foundation for maintaining consumer trust.

The Trump/Perdue USDA has allowed a few powerful corporate lobbyists to undo years of collaborative work between the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and the public in developing these new rules.

To withdraw the rule at this point undermines the power of the NOSB that created and approved the rule and the public-private collaboration that was mandated by Congress.

Withdrawing the OLPP is bad for ethical farmers and consumers—and the USDA needs to hear your opinion.

It is essential that the practice of allowing porches to qualify as “outdoor access” for organic laying hens ends—and the OLPP rule, although seriously flawed, would be a step in the right direction. Agribusiness interests with over a million birds on a single “farm” have fought this rule so hard precisely because it would improve the lives of poultry.

Tell the USDA that there will be no confidence in the organic label if the OLPP is withdrawn.

Post your comments online today—deadline is 11:59PM (ET), Wednesday, January 17.

  1. Go to the comment form at regulations.gov.
  2. Write directly in the space provided, cut and paste your comments, or attach a separate document. Tell the USDA, “I am against the withdrawal of the proposed Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule. I also support The Cornucopia Institute’s formal comments submitted on the notice of withdrawal.” Add a personal comment explaining why this issue is important to you as an organic consumer or farmer, and include the docket number somewhere in your comment: AMS-NOP-15-0012; NOP-15-06.
  3. Alternatively, you can mail your comments to the below address, ensuring that they will be received on or before January 17. Make sure to include the docket number somewhere in your comment: AMS-NOP-15-0012; NOP-15-06.

Paul Lewis, Ph.D.
Director, Standards Division
National Organic Program, USDA-AMS-NOP
1400 Independence Ave. SW, Room 2642-So., Ag Stop 0268
Washington, DC 20250-0268

If you are an organic livestock farmer or rancher, or are involved in the industry, please be sure to mention that. Comments from organic consumers are vitally important too, especially if you tell regulators why you care. If you are a consumer, you can also let the USDA know that this regulation is vital to your continued trust in the organic label.

Comments due in Washington on January 17, by 11:59PM ET.

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