USDA withdraws rule for organic livestock standards

by Erica Shaffer
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USDA
 
WASHINGTON – The US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) has decided to withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule to the dismay of stakeholders in the organic agriculture industry.

USDA concluded the OLPP final rule exceeded the agency’s statutory authority and would have negatively impacted voluntary participation in the National Organic Program “…after careful review and two rounds of public comment.”

“The existing robust organic livestock and poultry regulations are effective,” said Greg Ibach, USDA Marketing and Regulatory Program Undersecretary. “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.”

USDA explained that “Significant policy and legal issues were identified after the rule published in January 2017.” Changes to the existing organic regulations, USDA said, could have a negative effect on real costs for producers and consumers.

USDA
 
The OTA vowed to continue pursuing legal remedies to resolve this issue.

“The USDA’s unconscionable action does not deter us,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of the OTA said in a statement. “We will continue our fight in the court. USDA has requested that this case be dismissed; now they have announced they are withdrawing the rule. But this issue will not go away. This latest action by USDA will only invigorate and solidify more support for this regulation.”

The OTA has turned to the courts to force USDA to uphold the organic livestock standards. Most recently, the OTA requested that oral arguments be heard on a lawsuit that alleges USDA unlawfully delayed the effective date of the standards, abused its discretion by ignoring public record that supported the organic standards, and a regulatory freeze on federal agencies by the Trump administration issued on Jan. 20, 2017, should not apply to organic standards because they are voluntary and apply only to those producers who participate.

Following the announcement of USDA’s decision, the OTA said “The Organic Trade Association last week requested that oral arguments be heard on its lawsuit against USDA over the Department’s failure to put into effect new organic livestock standards. The case is gaining significant momentum and more organic businesses and stakeholders are taking action to speak out in support of the lawsuit.

“The Organic Trade Association will immediately amend the complaint to yet again challenge USDA’s latest attempt to kill a rule that has been fully vetted over a decade.”

The number of certified organic operations in the United States increased by 7 percent and globally by 11 percent, according to USDA reports for 2017. Industry estimates show that organic sales in the US approached $47 billion in 2016, reflecting an increase of almost $3.7 billion since 2015.

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