DES MOINES, Iowa-New rules, decades in the making, that would have required organic meat and egg producers to abide by stricter animal welfare standards were withdrawn by the federal government on Monday, frustrating organic farmers and animal welfare groups but leaving some traditional egg and livestock farm groups rejoicing.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rescinded the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule because it would have exceeded the department's authority and been a costly burden on organic producers, the government said. Divergent farming practices within the fast-growing organic sector were causing confusion among shoppers and giving an economic advantage to egg producers who provided less space to their poultry, the agency said at the time.
Current law allows for regulation in narrow areas of animal care, including the types of food animals ingest, the antibiotics and vaccines used (absent illness), and anti-parasite treatments, the USDA said, interpreting law more narrowly than Obama's administration. Trust in the organic seal depended on it, some advocates insisted.
"The American Farm Bureau supports USDA's decision to withdraw the misguided Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule", said American Farm Bureau Federation president Zippy Duvall. The USDA's ruling preserves the status quo, and fails to establish the USDA Organic label as the "gold standard" for organics that OLPP promised. The USDA delayed implementation of the rule three times before yesterday's announcement that it would formally withdraw the rule.
The Organic Trade Associations says it will continue to fight USDA over its failure to implement the rule and that its case is gaining significant momentum in the organic community.More news: China plans new competition regulator in government revamp
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams. In a press release, it stated that the USDA had "without regard for public comment and without respect for legal authorities - irresponsibly thwarted a fully vetted regulation overwhelmingly supported by the organic industry and the public".
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".
"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", said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association.
"USDA's action to withdraw the OLPP rule is a mistake that will cost the family producers who already adhere to strict standards in order to meet "organic" standards".
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. Livestock, meanwhile, must be provided access to an outdoor space year round.