WASHINGTON – The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) joined the Organic Trade Association (OTA) as co-plaintiffs in lawsuit challenging the US Dept. of Agriculture’s decision to withdraw standards for organic livestock.

The organizations submitted a new filing to reflect their arguments against USDA’s decision to withdraw Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule.

“We welcome the critical support of our friends in the animal welfare community in standing up against the Administration's attack on this important organic standard,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of the OTA. “In USDA’s attempt to kill this fully vetted final regulation, they’ve taken a radical departure from conclusions reached over more than 20 years of rulemakings regarding organic livestock care and have assumed an aberrant view that has no historical basis or legal justification.”

In the revised lawsuit, the co-plaintiffs are challenging USDA’s view that the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) gives the National Organic Program the authority to regulate only veterinary medications, not animal care, welfare or production standards. The lawsuit also challenging USDA’s position that the agency does not have to consult with the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) — the advisory board to the National Organic Program established by OFPA — before withdrawing the regulation.

“The organic standard-making process established by Congress requires consultation with the National Organic Standards Board to make or amend existing organic standards,” Batcha said. “The day the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final regulation was published, it became the regulation of the National Organic Program. Withdrawal of this regulation requires NOSB’s consultation and review.”

In March, USDA concluded the OLPP final rule exceeded the agency’s statutory authority and would have negatively impacted voluntary participation in the National Organic Program. The agency said changes to the existing organic regulations could negatively impact real costs for producers and consumers. IN a statement, Greg Ibach, USDA Marketing and Regulatory Program Undersecretary, said existing organic livestock and poultry regulations are effective.

“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,” Ibach said.

Supporters of the OLPP vehemently disagreed, calling the USDA’s decision “unconscionable.”

“AWI was gravely disappointed by the department’s withdrawal of the OLPP rule because it had been widely praised by animal advocates, consumer protection groups, and the vast majority of the organic livestock industry,” said Erin Thompson, staff attorney for the AWI farm animal program. “Despite broad support, and decades of work spent advancing the rule through the National Organic Standards Board and the rulemaking process, the department issued an arbitrary reversal that undermines the mandate of the Organic Foods Production Act.”