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Organic livestock rule misses June 17 deadline

Seventy organic farm organizations ask Congress to pressure USDA to finalize Origin of Livestock rule.

The Organic Farmers Assn. (OFA) delivered a letter to members of Congress asking them to ensure that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP) complies with the law and finalizes the Origin of Livestock rule as soon as possible.

The deadline Congress set for the NOP to finalize the long-awaited Origin of Livestock rule was June 17. OFA said this rule is necessary to close a loophole in organic dairy standards that has “supported the rapid growth of large organic dairies and, consequently, put family organic dairy farmers out of business across the country.”

The Origin of Livestock rule will close the loopholes by specifying that organic dairy animals must be raised organically from the last third of gestation or be raised organically for one year if transitioning a conventional herd to organic, which is allowed only once. Cycling dairy animals in and out of organic production must be prohibited, and once a distinct herd is transitioned to organic, all animals must be raised organically from the last third of gestation.

The letter, signed by 70 organic farm organizations from across the nation, strongly urged members of Congress, including members of the House and Senate agriculture committees, to pressure USDA to make sure that the NOP complies with the mandate by Congress and finalizes the organic livestock rule as soon as possible. “The organic community is united in the immediate need for this rule. We are disappointed this long-awaited deadline has passed without action from the NOP,” OFA director Kate Mendenhall said.

“We have already lost many family organic dairies over the past few years as a result of this loophole, and many more are suffering economic hardship. The new rule won’t save organic family dairies, but it will sure help level the playing field and provide opportunity for a sustainable future,” Ed Maltby, executive director of Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, said. “It is past time for the NOP to finalize the rule and provide much-needed clarity requested by the organic community.”

Congress recognized the need to strengthen the organic dairy standards and included language in the fiscal 2020 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food & Drug Administration & Related Agency Appropriations bill requiring the NOP to issue a final Origin of Livestock rule within 180 days from the date of enactment.

Continued delays in implementing this rule will prolong the dire economics facing organic dairy farmers as well as jeopardize consumers’ trust in the organic label, OFA said, adding, "The organic community is gravely disappointed at the lack of attention and priority NOP has put on this issue and demands swift rule-making and implementation."

TAGS: Policy
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