ELEVEN rules from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are still waiting to be finalized at the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) in the waning days of the Obama Administration.
According to the OMB website, it is dealing with 160 pending regulatory actions that are currently under review.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said OMB will have to make practical decisions on which regulations will get final clearance before the Administration leaves office.
In mid-October, USDA sent OMB its "Farmer Fair Practices Rules" — commonly termed the "GIPSA" rule — which includes two proposed rules and an interim final rule.
The proposed rules address the poultry tournament payment system and issues of undue preference, while the interim final rule clarifies that farmers need only prove that they were treated unfairly by a company to secure legal remedy.
Currently, farmers are required to not only prove harm to themselves and their businesses, but they must also prove that the result of the harm affected competition industry-wide. The interim final rule will clarify and underscore the plain language of the Packers & Stockyards Act, which requires no proof of harm to competition from a complainant.
Another widely anticipated rule that was sent to OMB on Nov. 3 would establish standards for organic livestock and poultry production. The rule is in the final stage and has many legislators and producers concerned about how the final regulations will come out.
The action would add provisions to the USDA organic regulations to address and clarify livestock and poultry living conditions — for example, access to the outdoors, the animals' housing environment, stocking densities, health care practices such as physical alterations, administering medical treatment, euthanasia and animal handling and transport to and during slaughter.
OMB has also been hanging onto USDA's proposed organic aquaculture rules since August 2015. It seems that the organic industry has some concerns about whether seafood can truly comply with the organic food law.
Supporters of an organic checkoff program have been waiting for more than a year for USDA to issue a proposal on how to help divert more funds to organic research and promotion through a national checkoff.
Vilsack explained that the organic checkoff proposal is "still a work in progress" because there were some "competing notions and interests" from different divisions in the organic sector.