The Trump Administration again decided to delay the effective date of the final rule on organic livestock and poultry practices that was published in the final hours of the Obama Administration. The first delay came in February 2017, followed by another delay in May. The latest slowdown has the agency waiting to evaluate the rule until May 14, 2018.
The Organic Livestock & Poultry Practices (OLPP) rule, initially proposed in April 2016, adds new provisions for livestock handling and transport for slaughter and avian living conditions and expands and clarifies existing requirements covering livestock care and production practices.
Although larger organic interests like the Organic Trade Assn. (OTA) supported the initial rule release, many commodity groups such as the National Pork Producers Council, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. and even larger organic businesses voiced opposition about the stipulations and costly regulations without providing animal welfare benefits.
The latest delay would have given the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) 180 days -- until Nov. 14, 2017 -- to evaluate comments on whether USDA should implement the rule, suspend the rule indefinitely, delay the rule or withdraw the rule.
AMS received more than 47,000 comments on the four options. More than 40,000 of the commenters, including over 34,600 submitted as form letters, supported implementing the rule as it was proposed. In the end, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it chose the delay option “so that important questions regarding USDA’s statutory authority to promulgate the OLPP rule and the likely costs and benefits of the rule can be more fully assessed through the notice-and-comment process prior to AMS making a final decision on whether the OLPP final rule should take effect.”
OTA said it will continue to fight for the rule's implementation. In September, OTA filed a lawsuit against USDA seeking judicial review of the Trump Administration’s delay of the production rule. The lawsuit is pending, and USDA must answer it by mid-November.
OTA had said it anticipated a further “walk-back” from the Administration of the 14 years of work to improve and clarify organic animal agriculture regulations.
“Any steps by USDA to unwind the changes to federal organic regulations are being taken against a backdrop of nearly universal support among the organic community, animal welfare advocates and consumers for the rules that USDA has now rejected,” OTA said in a statement. “We will continue this fight in the court, where a federal judge will now evaluate whether the Administration has wrongly ignored the laws that require consultation with the National Organic Standards Board and those requiring informing the public and providing consumers a chance to comment on organic policies before they take effect."
OTA emphasized that it "will continue to fight to uphold organic standards that this Administration continues to willfully ignore by repeatedly delaying this fully vetted and final voluntary organic standard. We will see the department in court and are confident that we will prevail on this important issue for the organic sector."