WASHINGTON — The Organic Trade Association (OTA) along with other organic stakeholders and consumers urged the US Department of Agriculture to quickly implement a final Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards (OLPS) rule.

“The organic community and our association have been fighting for some 20 years for the much-needed animal welfare reforms that this regulation makes possible,” said Tom Chapman, chief executive officer of OTA. “It is time now for USDA to heed the overwhelming support that this new rule has received from the public, and once and for all make this rule a reality.”

In August, USDA announced its plans for the proposed OLPS rule and opened a public comment period, which ended on Nov. 10. USDA proposed standards for organic poultry and livestock living conditions, care, transport and slaughter, which the agency believes would promote a fairer and more competitive market for organic producers.

According to OTA, out of nearly 40,000 posted comments, 89% were in favor of the finalization of the regulation, and less than 1% were directly opposed to it.

“USDA has taken a significant step forward in finally clarifying key organic animal welfare regulations,” Chapman said. “The Organic Trade Association will keep the pressure on to make sure this new regulation is put into place. Now it is time for the department to swiftly implement these long overdue rules, as the organic community and the public clearly support.”  

The OLPS’s predecessor, the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule was rescinded in 2017. OTA took the government to court over failure to uphold organic standards.

USDA laid out the option of a 15-year implementation plan for regulation of the OLPS rule. OTA called the option “excessively long” and recommended operations certified at the time of the final rule’s publication date should have no more than five years to comply with outdoor space requirements, and new entrants must comply within one year. 

In October, nearly 80 US lawmakers sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in support of the proposed rule. They commended the USDA “for prioritizing these much-needed regulations to set clear standards concerning outdoor access and the care of animals raised under the National Organic Program, leveling the playing field for organic farmers, and meeting consumer expectations.”

USDA will review submitted comments and will publish the finalized rule at a later date.