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USDA again delays organic livestock rule

The controversial rule was finalized in the final days of the Obama administration, but has been on rocky ground with the new administration.
Carol Ryan Dumas

Capital Press

Published on November 9, 2017 9:25AM

USDA is again holding off on putting in place organic livestock and poultry practices, delaying the Nov. 14 effective date.

The controversial rule was finalized in the final days of the Obama administration, but has been on rocky ground with the new administration.

It adds new provisions for livestock handling and transportation for slaughter and avian living conditions in organic production. It also expands existing requirements for livestock care and production practices and mammalian living conditions.

The Organic Trade Association says the rule represents 14 years of work to improve and clarify organic animal regulations and has universal support among the organic community, animal welfare advocates and consumers.

But conventional livestock groups oppose the rule on several fronts, saying the proposed practices aren’t based on science but aimed at consumer perception and threaten both animal and human public health.

Initially proposed in April 2016, the rule was set to go in place March 20 of this year. President Trump’s executive order putting a freeze on all pending regulation for 60 days delayed implementation until May 19. But USDA again delayed implementation until Nov. 14, citing significant policy and legal issues warranting further review.

Anticipating yet another delay, OTA filed suit against USDA in September, seeking judicial review of the administration’s delay. The lawsuit is pending.

In a statement on Thursday, OTA said it will “continue to fight to uphold organic standards that this administration continues to willfully ignore by repeatedly delaying this fully vetted and final voluntary organic standard. We will see the department in court and are confident that we will prevail on this important issue for the organic sector.”

Michael Conaway, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, released a statement in support of the delay.

“The organic livestock rule goes far beyond the scope of the National Organic Program, threatening animal health and food safety, and jeopardizing the livelihoods of numerous farmers and ranchers,” he said.

“I am hopeful the Trump administration’s commitment to regulatory reform will result in the continued roll-back of burdensome regulations like this one,” he said.

USDA stated a material error in the record was discovered during the course of reviewing the rule, in addition to a question about the scope of the statutory authority.

“USDA is delaying the rule so that important questions, such as the likely costs and benefits, can be more fully assessed through the notice and comment process prior to making a final decision on the direction of the rule,” the agency stated.


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