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Organic industry gets court win in animal welfare lawsuit

Court ordered the matter returned to USDA for a 180-day period to see if USDA can fix its economic modeling errors. 

After ten years of work, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a final rule concerning Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP Rule). In a court ruling issued March 12, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Thursday agreed with the Organic Trade Association’s lawsuit against USDA that the final rule was withdrawn by this administration based on a flawed analysis.

Finding that USDA had voluntarily conceded OTA’s charges rather than proceed to judgment, the court ordered the matter returned to USDA for a 180-day period to see if USDA can fix its economic modeling errors. 

USDA three times unilaterally issued a rule delaying the effective date of the OLPP Rule; and on March 13, 2018, USDA issued a Final Withdrawal Rule by which it terminated the OLPP Rule. The OTA, a proponent of the OLPP Rule, initially filed suit in 2017, objecting to the delays.

Referring to USDA’s concession as having come “suddenly” after USDA asked for two extensions to respond on the merits, the court decided it would “ensure timely action,”  by setting a 180-day deadline, instead of granting the department the open-ended timeframe that it had requested.

The Organic Trade Association said it welcomes a court-ordered deadline because of USDA’s willingness to drag out the rule-making process and thwart the will of the organic industry. “We urge USDA to carry out its legal responsibility as the steward for the American organic program in a fair, transparent and expeditious manner,” OTA said.

The Organic Trade Association said it took this action against USDA in support of organic standards. “We are fully prepared for the court to render a verdict when the record is complete in 180 days.”

OTA stated, “At the end of the day and despite this delay, we are more confident than ever that our arguments will prevail and that the will of the industry will be served. We are confident that the OLPP will ultimately be reinstated.”


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