The Organic Trade Association formally opposed the delay of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule last month after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) pushed back the effective date by six months.
“The Organic Trade Association (OTA) along with over 350 organic livestock producers representing $1.95 billion in annual sales, the federal Advisory Committee on organic, and every major U.S. accredited organic certifier have called on the Secretary of Agriculture to allow the organic livestock rule to go into effect,” read a statement released by the organization.
The rule is currently withstanding its second postponement. The first came on Jan. 20, the day of President Trump’s inauguration. A White House Memorandum requested a regulatory freeze on new or pending rules.
The rules in question were pushed to May 19, but would be delayed by the USDA a week and half prior on May 10.
The comment period has been reopened and the new requirements are currently slated to launch on Nov. 14.
“Being certified organic is a choice, not a mandate,” reads the OTA’s statement. “Organic means more than just what the animals eat. The comprehensive regulation reflects a consensus between producers, certifiers, and consumers that organic livestock, including poultry, should be provided with meaningful outdoor access and adequate space to move around, and that all organic livestock should not be subjected to unnecessary physical alterations like tail docking.”
The new regulations establish a minimum indoor and outdoor space for poultry containment, clarifies how producers and handlers must treat livestock and chickens to ensure their health and well-being (including during transport and slaughter), specifies which physical alterations are allowed and prohibited in organic livestock and poultry production and provides what the OTA calls “generous” implementation timelines for producers to comply.
Those accommodations include a five-year window to establish outdoor access requirements for egg operations, three-year window for broiler operations to establish indoor space requirements and one year for all other mandated changes.
The OTA publicly expressed understanding for the USDA’s tentativeness, but assured the group that the second postponement “will not reveal any new information.”
“The voluntary organic program ensures products bearing the USDA Organic seal meet rigorous standards,” reads the OTA’s statement. “The viability of the organic market rests on consumer trust in the USDA Organic seal, and trust that the organic seal represents a meaningful differentiation from other agricultural practices. A federal voluntary standard that meets the changing needs of customers is imperative for the organic sector. Without the ability to deliver a product that keeps up with the evolving consumer preference, the relevance of the USDA Organic seal is at stake and it will have long-term detrimental effects on an entire industry.”