The Organic Trade Association (OTA), which first filed suit against the USDA in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in September over the department's failure to put the organic livestock and poultry practices rule into effect, said Monday it plans to amend its complaint.
"The decision nullifies 14 years of policymaking in a process mandated by Congress, and marks an about-face for the agency", Lynne Curry wrote for Civil Eats.
Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts in a statement echoed some in the livestock industry who said the rule would increase the paperwork burden and drive up the cost of production for farmers and ranchers. Trust in the organic seal depended on it, some advocates insisted.
Countering groups backing USDA's decision was the National Farmers Union, who said that withdrawing the rule is a detriment to family farmers. The USDA's ruling preserves the status quo, and fails to establish the USDA Organic label as the "gold standard" for organics that OLPP promised. And it's a travesty for millions of animals raised within the organic system, as well as the consumers who appreciate organic products and look to the government to support stronger welfare norms under the USDA's authority. The USDA's rationale for withdrawal was severely flawed, ignoring not only the overwhelming public and industry support for the rule but the agency's own economic analyses demonstrating only minor economic impact on the industry from the rule's implementation.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
"The existing robust organic livestock and poultry regulations are effective", said Greg Ibach, USDA marketing and regulatory program undersecretary. "Secretary Sonny Perdue deserves a lot of credit for yet another common-sense decision that will benefit America's cattle producers".
"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".
In 2016, the USDA said that at least half of USA organic egg production came from operations that exclusively use roofed enclosures, known as porches, to provide outdoor access to hens. "USDA is hoping this issue will go away, but [this] latest action by USDA will only invigorate and solidify more support for this regulation".
USDA is withdrawing the rule based on its current interpretation of 7 U.S. C. 6905, citing that the OLPP rule exceeds USDA's statutory authority. "When USDA fails to do this, it is time for the organic community to insist that it live up to its responsibility".
The rule would have created significant barriers to existing and new organic producers, according to National Pork Producers Council.
However, the porches meet USDA standards for producers of organic livestock to provide "year-round access for all animals to the outdoors".