OTA Slams USDA for Withdrawing Animal Welfare Regulations

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Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has withdrawn the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) regulation, saying it exceeds the department’s “statutory authority” but the organic industry is not going to let things go unchallenged.

USDA announced the move this week, reversing a regulation signed into law by President Obama on Jan. 19, just before he left office.  The rule would have increased federal regulation of livestock and poultry for certified organic producers and handlers, requiring organic egg factories to provide their hens with outdoor space to graze. The department said imposing new requirements would discourage farmers from obtaining organic certification.

“The existing robust organic livestock and poultry regulations are effective,” said Greg Ibach, USDA marketing and regulatory program undersecretary. “The organic industry’s continued growth domestically and globally shows that consumers trust the current approach that balances consumer expectations and the needs of organic producers and handlers.”

The withdrawal becomes effective May 13, 2018.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) slammed the USDA for what it calls “egregious” behavior, and said it would continue to battle the agency in court.  In a press release, it stated that the USDA had “without regard for public comment and without respect for legal authorities — irresponsibly thwarted a fully vetted regulation overwhelmingly supported by the organic industry and the public.

“This most recent egregious attempt by the Department to ignore the will of the organic industry and consumers does not halt our judicial review, but, in fact, furthers our resolve,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “USDA’s unconscionable action does not deter us. USDA is hoping this issue will go away, but [this] latest action by USDA will only invigorate and solidify more support for this regulation.”

As Whole Foods Magazine reported in January, the OTA called all organic advocates and animal welfare activists to voice their discontent by signing a form condemning the USDA’s proposal to roll back the animal welfare regulations.  They collected roughly 72,000 comments supporting the OLPP.

According to USDA reports for 2017, the number of certified organic operations increased domestically by 7% and globally by 11%. Industry estimates show that organic sales in the U.S. reached almost $47 billion in 2016, reflecting an increase of almost $3.7 billion since 2015.

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