Wednesday, December 6, 2023

USDA considers withdrawing Organic Rule

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It was approximately one year ago when the USDA under the Obama Administration announced the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Final Rule. However, on Dec. 18, 2017, the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS), now under the Trump Administration, proposed withdrawing the rule intended to define the organic industry and level the playing ground for producers.

Currently, an organic label on poultry and egg products has a variety of different meanings. Some organic producers allow their chickens to go outside, but others ensure their birds have a certain amount of space to move around outside.

Part of the organic rule proposed by the Obama Administration would address these differences and enforce regulations across the board in the organic industry. For example, chickens would have one square foot of outdoor space per 2.25 pounds and six inches of space on a perch for every bird.

However, applying these rules would exceed the USDA’s current statutory authority. AMS has not made a final decision yet, and the USDA is still studying the effects the final rule would have on the growing organic industry.

The organic market has been increasing and the cost of the additional paperwork that would be required to regulate the new rules could be more than $2 million alone. According to the Office of the Federal Register, if 50 percent of the organic egg producers moved to the cage-free egg market and the organic industry continues to grow at historical rates, the costs would be $11.7-$12 million.

Some producers are fighting for the proposed rule to still be set into motion so that consumers are not confused by similar labels. Some industry groups have even committed to suing the USDA for delaying the new regulations.

Other larger farms that have met today’s requirements are encouraging the withdrawal of the rule due to the fact that if the rule were to still go into effect, their farms would no longer be adequate for the organic label.

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