The USDA says it will completely withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule initially published in January 2017 that animal welfare advocates and organic industry members had been aiming to have implemented.
The ruling was pushed out by President Obama before he left office and had been set to go into effect in March of 2017, but it was delayed by the Trump administration several times over.
The Organic Trade Association says the rule, which would have added protections for livestock including improved living conditions, better handling practices, and improved transport conditions to slaughter, among other elements, has significant support from the growing organic community.
The group took legal action against the USDA, alleging that it violated the Organic Food Production Act by its repeated delays. But the USDA says the rule passed by the Obama administration exceeded the agency's authority and could have done damage to the integrity of the National Organic Program, which enforces the USDA certified organic labeling.
Livestock producers including the National Pork Producers Council, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and the National Milk Producers Federation, all opposed the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule.
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“Not only did USDA not have the legal authority to implement (the) animal-welfare regulations, but the rule would have also vilified conventionally raised livestock without recognizing our commitment to raise all cattle humanely,” Kevin Kester, NCBA president, said in a statement.
Despite the setback, the OTA's CEO and executive director Laura Batcha says its members continue to move forward with plans. “The USDA’s unconscionable action does not deter us … . This latest action by USDA will only invigorate and solidify more support for this regulation,” she noted.
Recent commitments to improve animal welfare by the organic community have led to a rise in regenerative agriculture and brands taking initiative to increase the transparency of production under the Regenerative Organic Alliance.
“Industrial agriculture and the factory farming of animals are top contributors to climate change, but these are also two practices that we can comprehensively improve through specific ecological and ethical approaches to farming. And that model, regenerative organic agriculture will bring real, immediate results,” said David Bronner, Cosmic Engagement Officer (CEO) of Dr. Bronner’s. “It’s imperative we act now to mitigate climate change. We need to shift our food production system to make regenerative organic agriculture the new model, both locally and globally.”
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