The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the decision to withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule published on January 19, 2017. The rule would have increased federal regulation of livestock and poultry for certified organic producers and handlers. The withdrawal becomes effective May 13, 2018.
Significant policy and legal issues were identified after the rule published in January 2017. After careful review and two rounds of public comment, USDA has determined that the rule exceeds the Department’s statutory authority, and that the changes to the existing organic regulations could have a negative effect on voluntary participation in the National Organic Program, including real costs for producers and consumers.
“The existing robust organic livestock and poultry regulations are effective,” said USDA Marketing and Regulatory Program Undersecretary Greg Ibach. “The organic industry’s continued growth domestically and globally shows that consumers trust the current approach that balances consumer expectations and the needs of organic producers and handlers.”
According to USDA reports for 2017, the number of certified organic operations increased domestically by seven percent and globally by 11 percent. Industry estimates show that organic sales in the United States reached almost $47 billion in 2016, reflecting an increase of almost $3.7 billion since 2015.
The Department carefully considered public comments and the relative costs and benefits for both producers and consumers of imposing the proposed additional regulations.
The Organic Trade Association on Monday strongly condemned the USDA for its withdrawal of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices regulation, saying the Department had — without regard for public comment and without respect for legal authorities — irresponsibly thwarted a fully vetted regulation overwhelmingly supported by the organic industry and the public.
The association said it is intensifying its efforts in the courts to resolve the issue, and that it will be immediately amending its official complaint against USDA to challenge the Department’s latest attempt to kill the rule. The Organic Trade Association noted that last week it requested that oral arguments now be heard on its lawsuit against USDA over the Department’s failure to put into effect the new organic livestock standards.
The OTA said in its press statement that the USDA recognizes that the Department received roughly 72,000 comments (in a truncated comment period during the holiday season) with an overwhelming majority supporting OLPP. USDA also recognizes that of those comments, only approximately 50 supported the withdrawal
“This most recent egregious attempt by the Department to ignore the will of the organic industry and consumers does not halt our judicial review, but, in fact, furthers our resolve,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “USDA’s unconscionable action does not deter us. USDA is hoping this issue will go away, but this latest action by USDA will only invigorate and solidify more support for this regulation.
“Since the filing of our lawsuit last September, a host of organic stakeholders representing thousands of organic farming families, organic certifiers and organic policymakers – along with leading animal welfare and retail groups speaking out for millions of consumers -- have joined our challenge,” added Batcha. “The organic sector depends on USDA to set organic standards fairly and according to the law. When USDA fails to do this, it is time for the organic community to insist that it live up to its responsibility.”
Source: USDA, OTA