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USDA plans to retract organic livestock rule

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U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that his agency will withdraw a proposed organic rule for livestock and poultry, a move hailed by the National Pork Producers Council.

The Obama-era regulation — the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule — would have incorporated into the National Organic Program welfare standards that were not based on science and that were outside the scope of the Organic Food Production Act of 1990. The act limited consideration of livestock as organic to feeding and medication practices. The rules were issued in January, just days before President Donald Trump took office. A regulatory freeze slowed their implementation, and the department just last month further delayed the effective date while challenging the legal footing for the regulations. The January 2017 Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule would have established certain production, handling and transportation practices for organic poultry and livestock.  After several extensions, the rule would have become effective on May 14, 2018.

On Dec. 18, USDA will publish a proposed rule requesting public comment on its intent to withdraw the OLPP final rule published in January 2017. USDA believes the OLPP final rule exceeded USDA’s statutory authority beyond the intent of the Organic Foods Production Act. If this withdrawal is finalized, the existing organic livestock and poultry regulations now published at 7 CFR part 205 would remain effective.

“We’d like to thank Secretary Perdue and the Trump administration for listening to our concerns with the rule and recognizing the serious challenges it would have presented our producers,” says NPPC President Ken Maschhoff, a pork producer from Carlyle, Ill.

The NPPC raised a number of problems with the regulation, including animal and public health concerns and the fact that animal production practices have nothing to do with the basic concept of “organic.” The NPPC also cited the complexity the standards would have added to the organic certification process, creating significant barriers to existing and new organic producers.

In withdrawing the rule, the USDA determined the regulation exceeded the agency’s authority — something the NPPC pointed out in comments on the rule — and that it would have had a greater economic impact on farmers than originally estimated.

The withdraw notice, which will be published in the Federal Register next week, is subject to a public comment period.

Source: USDA, NPPC

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