Last year I wrote a featured article on the proposed updates to the National Organic Program livestock and poultry regulations that would have covered animal living conditions, animal care, transport, and slaughter. These proposed standards reflect 15 years of discussion, feedback, and support from consumers, organic producers, and certifiers. The rules were designed to provide greater clarity and specific guidelines to help producers and certifiers embrace the spirit of organic regulations.
Originally scheduled to go into effect March 2017, implementation was postponed to May 2017 and then November 2017. Recently the USDA decided to completely withdraw the proposed regulations based on their findings that the “rule would exceed USDA’s statutory authority” and that existing regulations are effective. Meaning that the USDA deemed animal welfare to be an overreach of a program for which participation is voluntary. This decision is contrary to public opinion, as the USDA received roughly 72,000 comments, with an overwhelming majority (over 63,000) supporting the implementation of the proposed rules.
As the majority of the comments indicate, regulation isn’t a bad thing. With the continued popularity and growth of organic food-businesses, strong regulations allow the term “organic” to be a differentiation from other unregulated marketing terms. These standards would have brought clarity for consumers and ensured the health and welfare of all organic animals.