Trump axes Obama-era rule on organic farming

Trump axes Obama-era rule on organic farming

The USDA now claims-for the first time ever-that it does not have statutory authority to pass rules improving welfare conditions for livestock, including poultry, on organic farms. It was initially set to go into effect in March 2017.

"The decision nullifies 14 years of policymaking in a process mandated by Congress, and marks an about-face for the agency", Lynne Curry wrote for Civil Eats.

"Consumers seeking organic animal products for their families have helped grow organic to the almost $50 billion industry it is today", says Cameron Harsh, Senior Manager for Organic and Animal Policy at Center for Food Safety. Trust in the organic seal depended on it, some advocates insisted.

"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". The rule would have increased federal regulation of livestock and poultry for certified organic producers and handlers, requiring organic egg factories to provide their hens with outdoor space to graze.

The OTA had already sued the administration for delaying implementation of the rule, and on Monday said it would push ahead with this lawsuit.

The Organic Trade Association still seeks a day in court over its litigation against USDA over the livestock rules.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

Last May, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, seeking to communicate his view of the agency's duty to the American people, said, "We owe it to the consumer to let them know we are concerned about their safety and the wholesomeness, nutritious capacity about the food they consume".

"America's organic livestock and poultry producers can now breathe easy that they can maintain the health of their flocks and herds the best way they see fit, and they will not be driven out of business by another government regulation", he said.

Significant policy and legal issues were identified after the rule published in January 2017.

"This most recent egregious attempt by the Department to ignore the will of the organic industry and consumers does not halt our judicial review, but, in fact, furthers our resolve", Laura Batcha, CEO of the OTA said in a statement. We had some admission by the USDA that the industry had been camping out in their office bending their arms and their ears. "USDA is hoping this issue will go away, but [this] latest action by USDA will only invigorate and solidify more support for this regulation".

The Organic Trade Association contends there is overwhelming support for the rule by the organic industry and consumers. USDA also recognizes that of those comments, only about 50 supported the withdrawal. USDA has requested that this case be dismissed; now they have announced they are withdrawing the rule. "When USDA fails to do this, it is time for the organic community to insist that it live up to its responsibility".

The rule refines and clarifies a series of organic animal welfare recommendations incorporated into the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, which established the federal organic regulations.