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on May 12, 2017

USDA delays welfare rules change for organic livestock

The rule, designed to strengthen animal welfare requirements for organic-certified livestock, will not be implemented until November.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is pushing back the effective date of a new, final rule establishing stricter animal welfare standards for organic livestock and poultry.

On May 11, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) announced the final rule – issued in January 2017 – will not go into effect until November 14. The rule document, posted on regulations.gov, says the six month delay is taking place to “allow time for further consideration by USDA.”

The rule was supposed to go into effect on March 20, but, according to a report from Capital Press, the implementation was delayed by 60 days due to an executive order signed by President Donald Trump.

When in effect, the rule will affect all livestock raised as part of the USDA’s National Organic Program. All animals will be required to be given enough space to lay down, turn around, stand up, fully stretch their limbs without touching other animals or the side of the enclosure, and otherwise express natural behaviors. The regulation will establish new rules for housing, transportation and slaughter of organic poultry.

The May 11 document from AMS said in addition to the delay, AMS will publish a proposed rule “that solicits public comments on the direction that USDA should take with respect to the rule.” A 30-day comment period will be opened to specify whether the USDA should let the rule become effective, suspended indefinitely, delayed further, or withdrawn entirely.

When the rule was published in January, it was panned by leading agricultural organizations like the National Chicken Council, the National Pork Producers Council and United Egg Producers.

On May 10, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) – a Washington-based trade group representing producers of organic goods – said the industry will accept that the USDA says it needs more time, but expects a further review will not reveal any new information.  

“The organic industry supports this final rule. The organic consumer supports this final rule. Any additional comment period will only serve to demonstrate that the organic industry and consumer want the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule to become effective, in its entirety,” the OTA statement said. “Under a business friendly administration, we are confident the (Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue) will see the benefits for producers.”

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