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November 13, 2017
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USDA Delays Organic Livestock Rules for the 3rd Time

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USDA Delays Organic Livestock Rules for the 3rd Time
MeatingPlace.com

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is delaying the effective date of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule, published in the Federal Register on Jan. 19, 2017, until May 14, 2018.

This is the third effective date delay of the rule, which amends the organic livestock and poultry production requirements of the USDA organic regulations by adding 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 and livestock living conditions.

The rule was most recently set to go into effect next Tuesday, Nov. 14, after a 180-day delay, “because significant policy and legal issues addressed within the final rule warranted further review by USDA,” the agency stated at the time.

The rule has been controversial; supported by groups including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals but seen as an overreach by food animal producers who question what animal handling practices have to do with whether a product should be designated as “organic” or not.

In comments submitted to USDA, organic poultry and livestock producers oppose the rule, noting economic costs, regulatory compliance burdens, increased consumer prices, biosecurity and food safety risks. Organic poultry producers cited potentially higher avian mortality rates as well as the significant investment costs in land and facilities needed to implement the poultry space and outdoor access requirements, making business unsustainable for many organic farmers.

In a draft Federal Register filing, USDA stated, “AMS believes that OFPA’s (Organic Food Production Act) reference to additional regulatory standards “for the care” of organically produced livestock is limited to health care practices similar to those specified by Congress in the statute, rather than as reflecting a stand-alone concern for animal welfare.”

The agency also noted, “during the course of reviewing the rulemaking record for the OLPP (Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices) final rule, AMS discovered a significant, material error in the mathematical calculation of the benefits estimates.” 

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