Animal welfare rules for organic livestock farmers have been in limbo for more than a decade.
In 2017, the Obama administration published the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) rule, which the Trump administration subsequently withdrew.
When the Biden administration took office, many organizations, including OEFFA, asked that three pending organic rules be first on the list of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) actions. OLPP was key among them. In mid-June, USDA Secretary Vilsack announced that the agency plans to reinstate animal welfare standards.
Organic Farmers Want Animal Welfare Regulation
It is important to note that organic farmers want regulation. The OLPP policy received more than 120,000 supportive comments, representing more than 99 percent of commenters. Without thorough standards for the National Organic Program, organic products lose their integrity, customers lose their confidence in the label, and organic farmers are deprived of market share. Organic certification is the only voluntary farming program regulated by the USDA.
OLPP Would Disallow Poultry Porches
During the June 17 announcement, Vilsack said that the forthcoming rule will “disallow the use of porches as outdoor space in organic production over time.” Large-scale poultry producers have used these “porches” as a substitute for outdoor access. For years, organic consumers and farmers alike have wanted this loophole to be closed and OEFFA applauds the Biden administration for making this a priority.
The organic animal welfare rules ensure adequate space and outdoor access for organic poultry by establishing clear and enforceable minimum spacing requirements and specifying the quality of outdoor space that must be provided. OLPP will also codify standards for outdoor access for other organic animals, like cows, and prohibit physical alterations like de-beaking and tail docking.
When the rule is released again, it will mark the fourth comment period for organic animal welfare standards. The agency anticipates the rule going to the Office of Management and Budget within 6-9 months of the remand.
Stay tuned to OEFFA or contact OEFFA today to learn more. When the rule is released (again!) we will provide information on how to comment, so we can continue to demonstrate the widespread support for this rule. In the meantime, celebrate this win for organic!