USDA Withdraws Organic Animal Welfare Rule

PITTSBORO, N.C.—On March 12, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it would officially withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule. The Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI-USA) and organic stakeholders believe the rule would have strengthened animal welfare requirements for organically certified meat and dairy. The USDA’s withdrawal becomes effective May 13, 2018.

OLPP regulations, published on January 19, 2017, addressed living conditions, animal healthcare, transport and slaughter. The rule would have provided clarification of language  included in current organic animal welfare standards, such as “access to outdoors” for livestock. Avian living conditions were also specifically addressed. The rule was subject to repeated delays in implementation, and the USDA subsequently found the rule to have significant policy and legal issues.

The reasoning behind the withdrawal of the regulations, as indicated in a USDA press release, is the OLPP rule exceeds USDA’s statutory authority. USDA takes the stance that imposing the new animal welfare requirements would deter farmers from participation in the National Organic Program. The agency also cites that consumers already trust organic, concluding existing regulations are effective and USDA sees no need for additional regulations.

The USDA’s withdrawal of this long overdue clarification of Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices standards, which has been in the works for over a decade, represents a failure of the agency to defend the vast majority of organic farmers that already meet this high standard and the overwhelming majority of the organic industry and consumers that expect nothing less,” said Michael Sligh, Just Foods program director at RAFI-USA and founding Chair of the National Organic Standards Board. “Consumer trust is built on this system designed to protect the integrity in the organic label, and USDA has missed a great opportunity to demonstrate this role. This could have brought much-needed consistency to how organic operations apply animal welfare standards, and would strengthen the global competitiveness of US organic label.”

“The National Organics Standards Board deliberated for several years, formally and informally with farmers, consumers, and processors in developing these proposed standards set forth by the OLPP,” said Mac Stone, certified organic livestock farmer from Kentucky. “Tough decisions were made to set the organic seal above the fray, and expose a few bad actors, that were dragging down the integrity behind the National Organic Program. We depend on this integrity to continue to grow our market.”

RAFI-USA will continue to pursue the eventual adoption of organic regulations.

About the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA

The Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA’s mission is to cultivate markets, policies and communities that sustain thriving, socially just, and environmentally sound family farms. RAFI-USA works nationally and internationally, focusing on North Carolina and the southeastern United States. RAFI-USA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Pittsboro, North Carolina and incorporated in 1990.

Media Contact:

Michael Sligh

msligh@rafiusa.org

919-641-9341