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USDA withdraws animal welfare rule

13 March 2018

Finalized under the Obama administration in April 2016, the rule largely dictated how producers and handlers participating in the National Organic Program are required to treat livestock and poultry to ensure their wellbeing.

The final rule, published January 19, 2017, prohibited farmers from docking pig tails, something the industry views as necessary for hygiene and animal safety, if the product was to be marketed as organic.

"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. "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".

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.

"The vast majority of organic farmers that opt-in to organic certification strongly believe in providing their animals with sufficient space, meaningful outdoor access, proper lighting, appropriate diets, and clean conditions", says Harsh. The OTA argues that USDA chose to roll back the livestock and poultry rules without consulting the National Organic Standards Board.

In a statement, USDA Marketing and Regulatory Program Undersecretary Greg Ibach said there are enough rules current "organic livestock and poultry regulations are effective" and further regulation is unnecessary. In September, it filed a lawsuit against USDA alleging the agency violated the Organic Food Production Act by delaying the rule's effective date.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

The Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule encompassed an array of housing, husbandry, and management standards, standards that consumers expect when they buy organic products. USDA also repeatedly delayed the rule and "arbitrarily ignored the overwhelming public record established in support of these organic standards". We had some admission by the USDA that the industry had been camping out in their office bending their arms and their ears.

"The Organic Trade Association will immediately amend the complaint to yet again challenge USDA's latest attempt to kill a rule that has been fully vetted over a decade". "USDA is hoping this issue will go away, but this latest action by USDA will only invigorate and solidify more support for this regulation". USDA has requested that this case be dismissed; now they have announced they are withdrawing the rule. "The organic sector depends on USDA to set organic standards fairly and according to the law". NCBA President Kevin Kester said the rule would have vilified producers raising non-organic livestock.

The regulation was created to ensure that organically grown livestock had enough space to lie down, turn around, stand up and fully stretch.

USDA withdraws animal welfare rule