Farmers Union urges restoration of organic livestock welfare standard

NFU board says consistency issues threaten viability of organic family farmers.
calendar icon 18 January 2018
clock icon 3 minute read

WASHINGTON – While bad actors in private industry pose consistent threats to the integrity of the organic food label, the federal government should not. Yet a recent decision by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) rule does just that, and it should be reversed immediately, according to the National Farmers Union (NFU).

Currently, organic certifiers are inconsistently applying animal welfare standards to farming and ranching operations. This, in turn, endangers the organic label’s integrity and ultimately leads to consumer confusion over what practices the organic label represents. The OLPP rule would have helped mitigate these concerns by standardizing organic livestock and poultry practices that producers need to meet for the voluntary National Organic Program (NOP).

Yesterday (17 January), the NFU board of directors approved a resolution urging the USDA to make the OLPP rule effective immediately. The board noted this action is vital for both the integrity of the organic label and the well-being of the family farmers who adhere to strict, voluntary organic standards. The NFU also submitted public comments today in favor of putting the rule in place.

“Central to the success of the National Organic Program is integrity in the label,” said the NFU board. “Despite stakeholder demands for consistency, certifiers have inconsistently applied animal husbandry standards across the industry. Consumer confusion threatens the continued success of the program and the significant investment family farmers have made.”

The Organic Foods Production Act directed the National Organic Standards Board to provide direction on changes and modernization to the National Organic Program. The program was always intended to represent continued improvement and modernization. The NOSB directed the NOP to issue standards for organic livestock and poultry producers to maintain consistency across the program.

The board noted that the OLPP rule enjoyed widespread industry support, which was reflected in the more than 47,000 public comments submitted in favor of the rule. “USDA withdrew the rule and blocked implementation of these standards, even though they have long been expected by the organic community and clearly reflect strong stakeholders input,” it wrote.

“The maintenance of high standards for the organic program is essential for the continuance of consumer confidence and the economic viability of the program for family farmers,” said the board. “We urge [the] USDA to make the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule effective immediately.”

For the audio file of Roger Johnson's quote, click here.

As reported by the NFU.

Further Reading

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Ryan Johnson

Editor at The Poultry Site

Ryan worked in conservation from 2008 to 2017, during which time he operated a rainbow trout hatchery and helped to maintain public and protected green spaces in Canada for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. As editor of The Poultry Site, he now writes about challenges and opportunities in agriculture across the globe.

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