USDA Publishes Origin of Livestock Final Rule

The changes are intended to promote a fairer and more competitive market for organic dairy producers.

Washington, D.C.—The U.S. Department of Agriculture has published the Origin of Livestock final rule for organic dairy, according to a USDA press release. The changes are intended to promote a fairer and more competitive market for organic dairy producers, by making sure that certified USDA organic dairy products are produced to the same consistent standard.

“This action demonstrates the USDA’s strong commitment to America’s organic dairy farmers,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the press release. “The Origin of Livestock final rule provides clear and uniform standards about how and when livestock may be transitioned to organic dairy production, and how transitioned animals are managed within the organic dairy system. Now, all organic dairy livestock producers will have the confidence and certainty they are operating in a fair and competitive market.”

In general, the rule:

  • Allows a dairy livestock operation transitioning to organic, or starting a new organic farm, to transition non-organic animals one time.
  • Prohibits organic dairies from sourcing any transitioned animals. Once a dairy is certified organic, animals must be managed as organic from the last third of gestation. Variances may be requested by small businesses for specific scenarios.

“Consumers of dairy that carry the USDA Certified Organic Seal can trust that those products meet their expectations for how organic dairy products are produced,” said Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. “At the same time, the rule announced today also ensures new organic producers have a fair way to enter the market.”

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“The Origin of Livestock rule has wide support across the organic industry—from small family farms to some of the largest organic dairies across the country,” commented Johanna Mirenda, Organic Trade Association Farm Policy Director, in a press release. “Over our years of advocacy on this rule, OTA members and organic industry leaders have submitted over 2700 comments across three different comment periods in support of this rule. We are extremely pleased that USDA has today issued this long-awaited final rule.”

OTA members Organic Valley, Danone North America, and Stonyfield Farm also released comments.

“This rulemaking has been a priority for our farmers for years—today USDA has delivered,” commented Adam Warthesen, Director of Government and Industry Affairs, Organic Valley. “This Origin of Livestock rulemaking levels the playing field by ensuring consistency in how farms source and transition dairy cows to organic production.”

Britt Lundgren, Director of Organic and Sustainable Agriculture, Stonyfield Farm, added: “We’re glad to see this moving forward. This rulemaking closes a longstanding loophole and provides much-needed clarity and consistency for organic dairy producers across the country.”

Chris Adamo, VP Government & Public Affairs, Danone North America, said: “We appreciate that after years of advocacy, USDA has finalized this key rule to ensure integrity across organic dairy and apply equitable standards to all organic dairy farmers.”