As USDA reviews the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule, farmers and ranchers are urging the department to completely withdraw the regulation, which goes well beyond the original intent of the Organic Production Act by allowing for animal welfare standards and metrics to become part of the organic label, the American Farm Bureau Federation says.
The rule was to be finalized on Nov. 14, but Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue recently announced a 180-day extension, making May 14, 2018, the new implementation date.
“The health and well-being of livestock is a top priority for all farmers and ranchers. We work with a host of specialists, from animal scientists to nutritionists, to manage our farms in the best manner possible to ensure wholesome, healthy food. This rule, on the other hand, has been about pushing an agenda rather than advancing food safety or animal welfare,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said in a statement.
Duvall also warned that rule would jeopardize organic farmers’ and ranchers’ livelihoods.
“Organic farmers and ranchers would be forced out of the organic sector or out of business entirely if this rule goes into effect and forces them to arbitrarily change their production practices,” he said.
This is not the first time Farm Bureau has raised concerns about this rule. In comments sent to USDA in June, Farm Bureau noted that a review of the Organic Foods Production Act's legislative history revealed that animal welfare was never included in remarks by the bill’s sponsors, during debate on the legislation or in report language.
“One of our gravest concerns is the overreach of the organic standards into the animal well-being arena. We do not believe the Organic Foods Production Act intended for animal well-being metrics to be part of the organic standard,” the group said.