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Trump administration withdraws organic regulation

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Announced by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the proposed regulation, Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule, is to be withdrawn for fears of over-regulating the industry.

The regulation was designed to establish national standards governing the marketing of certain agricultural products as organically produced to assure consumers that organically produced products meet a consistent standard and to facilitate interstate commerce in fresh and processed food that is organically produced.

It is being withdrawn on the grounds that “organic producers have already made significant investments in facilities and infrastructure to support the growing organic market under the current USDA organic regulations, and there has been significant growth in the organic market under the existing regulatory regime”​. This suggests that the present regulatory regime is meeting statutory objectives of reassuring consumers of organic integrity.

The USDA was also concerned that rules could have the unintended consequence of preventing or stunting future market-based innovation in response to rapidly evolving social and producer norms and that “overly prescriptive regulation can discourage technological and social innovation, especially by small firms and consumers, distorting or even preventing technological development”​.

One sector that would been particularly affected is the poultry industry. Currently organic legislation requires producers to provide outdoor access. But the proposed change in regulation would have required some processors to modify their existing set-up.

Back in July 2016, the National Chicken Council expressed concern that the proposed rule imposes unreasonable costs and requirements of doubtful benefit on Organic farmers, presents grave risks to animal health in the face of an avian disease outbreak, and undermines ongoing international efforts to develop poultry welfare standards.

A final rule on the regulation was supposed to happen in March of this year but had been delayed three times before being withdrawn.

In response, director of the food and agriculture programme at Friends of the Earth, Lisa Archer, said: “Trump’s decision to cave to a handful of powerful agribusiness interests by scrapping the organic animal welfare rule is a slap in the face to organic farmers and to the millions of consumers who have put their trust into the organic label. Congress must step up to stop Trump’s attack on organic.”

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