It is now official, the USDA has withdrawn the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) rule, as of May 13, 2018. This action will close one chapter and begin the next in a long-running conflict withing the organic community, and between it and the USDA.
The USDA is justifying its actions primarily by pointing to the impact of the OLPP on large-scale organic chicken operations that look and smell, and are managed in essentially the same way conventional ones are, except for the use of organic feed and no use of prohibited pharmaceuticals.
According to OLPP critics, adherence to the stricter requirements for outdoor access and minimal space per bird would raise the cost of organic eggs and chicken, and “change the rules” for producers who had invested in chicken houses that at least some certifiers, and the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP), deem in compliance with Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) requirements.
Nearly all organic farmers (other than those impacted), organic food businesses, and consumer groups active in advancing the integrity and supply of organic food strongly support the rule, which was the end-result of a tortuously long and messy, but open and democratic process.
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) has already sued the USDA over the delay in the implementation of the rule, and now will amend their lawsuit to argue for reversing the Department’s decision to drop it. The litigation will likely take a few years to move through the courts, and will draw added media and consumer attention to the dark-side of large-scale, organic livestock operations.
There were some 72,000 comments submitted in response to the USDA’s latest request for public input regarding what to do with OLPP.
Almost 88% of the comments supported rule implementation. About 7,800 expressed no opinion regarding final USDA action. Out of the remaining ~2,200 comments, only about 50 non-form letters urged the USDA to abandon the rule.
There were ~7,000 non-form letters submitted to the USDA in support of the rule. This one was
posted on Hygeia a few months ago.
It provides additional details why this action by the USDA is contrary to law, goes against what the vast majority of the organic community supports, undermines the deliberative, open process that is supposed to guide implementation of the OFPA, and will reinforce the arguments of those who assert organic livestock products in the marketplace do not differ materially from conventional, with one exception — they cost more.
This is just the latest of many actions by the USDA that show the Department’s true colors when it comes to defending and promoting the integrity of organic food and farming. It joins an already long list of ways the USDA undermines consumer confidence in organic food and farming.
Tom Polansek, “USDA withdraws proposal to stiffen rules for organic egg farms,” Reuters, March 12, 2018.
USDA bought off once again by the large corporations exploiting greed. I guarantee what ever person that made the final decision has never set foot inside a confined poultry house. I quit growing commercial broilers for a major integrator and was scared to grow organic. It’s unbelievable. Bird density was reduced, no coccidiastats, or medication and birds are allowed outside. Birds are healthier and happier. The weight increased by 200% and mortality decreased to the point that it’s actually fun to walk the houses. The large integrators can’t get the rules to work on their favor. They have houses jammed beside one another and don’t have the space to turn the chickens out in the grass because it’s allgravel and dirt needed for large vehicles. We clean manure out between flocks and don’t use chemicals for litter amendments like integrators force their producers to use. The environment in my houses is great and natural with new pine shavings or switch grass when starting baby chicks. The cost of producing these birds is higher but only due to feed costs. Supply of organic grain is a limiting factor and the feed mill must be dedicated to that feed production. That’s another inconvenience for the large integrators. USDA better observe the consumer demand and market. I suppose it was an inconvenience for the large super market chains like Walmart but they have accomplished the task. Again the small farmer is being crushed by our government due to corporate greed Why is the small family farmer that is producing what the consumer wants punished by the clout of the wealthy owners of the large corporations swaying USDA in their favor! I was taught our government was of by and for the people.