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Court to hear challenge of USDA’s organic livestock rule withdrawalCourt to hear challenge of USDA’s organic livestock rule withdrawal

Organic Trade Assn. believes USDA was wrong in delaying and eventually withdrawing rule that would have established organic livestock production standards.

Jacqui Fatka

October 5, 2018

2 Min Read
Court to hear challenge of USDA’s organic livestock rule withdrawal

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has decided to hear a case brought by the Organic Trade Assn. (OTA) against the U.S. Department of Agriculture over the agency’s failure to put into effect new organic livestock standards.

In March, USDA withdrew the final Organic Livestock & Poultry Practices (OLPP) regulation, which was supposed to go into effect in May. The agency contends that the Organic Foods Production Act does not give the National Organic Program the authority to regulate animal welfare. OTA is arguing that this claim is a radically different view from any administration since the adoption of the National Organic Program and one that cannot be legally supported.

"We are delighted the court has agreed to hold a hearing despite the USDA's objections. Our case is moving forward,” OTA chief executive officer and executive director Laura Batcha said. “We are also encouraged that the court will hear our challenge to the entire, year-long pattern of unlawful conduct by USDA.”

OTA filed its original lawsuit against USDA in September 2017 over the agency’s continued delay of the final organic welfare standard. The association subsequently submitted an amended complaint in April 2018 to reflect USDA’s withdrawal of the rule. Batcha said OTA believes, "beginning with the first delay that was undertaken without an opportunity for public notice and comment -- shortly after the current Administration took office -- until the final withdrawal of the Organic Livestock & Poultry Production rule in March 2018, that USDA has engaged in a pattern of misconduct that can only be corrected by a federal court."

Related:Lawsuit against USDA’s organic livestock rule withdrawal proceeds

OTA is also arguing that USDA violated the Organic Foods Production Act by failing to consult with the National Organic Standards Board on this rollback of the final organic animal welfare standard and unlawfully delayed the effective date of the final livestock standards developed by industry and in accordance with the established rule-making processes. The suit argues that USDA’s repeated delays were issued without the required public process and that USDA arbitrarily ignored the overwhelming public record established in support of these organic standards.

“We are confident our case is strong, and we look forward to winning this legal battle to uphold organic standards,” Batcha said. “There should be no doubt that the Organic Trade Assn. and its member businesses have a material stake in the outcomes of USDA actions to kill a final organic standard. Consumers trust that the organic seal represents meaningful differences in the production of crops and the raising of animals, and any shaking of that trust harms organic producers and businesses. The Organic Trade Assn. will continue to fight for the public process that is a critical part of the USDA organic seal."

Related:USDA puts final ax on organic livestock rule

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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