A last-minute behind-closed doors effort by interests wishing to circumvent national organic standards resulted a provision hidden in the 2003 federal spending bill that would permit livestock producers to label their meat, poultry and dairy products as “organic” even if the animals are fed partly or entirely on conventional feed rather than organic feed.
As worded, Section 771 of the Fiscal Year 2003 Consolidated Budget Bill approved by Congress Thursday evening, Feb. 13, would not allow any funds to be used to enforce the 100 percent organic feed requirement for certified organic livestock operations unless a report prepared by the Secretary of Agriculture confirms organically produced feed is commercially available at no more than twice the cost of conventionally produced feed to meet current market demand. To read Section 771, click here.
This action is in direct contradiction to the National Organic Standards implemented in October 2002, which stipulates that livestock must be fed 100 percent organic feed in order for the resulting meat, poultry or dairy products to be labeled as organic. (Click here to link to national organic standards).
As reported by The New York Times, Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert added the last minute provision at the request of Rep. Nathan Deal of Georgia in a closed-door meeting Feb. 12 of the House of Representatives conference committee. This was prompted at the behest of a single Georgia poultry operation that last year attempted to get representatives in Congress and USDA to create an exemption from the 100 percent organic feed requirement, but failed.
When the language was made public on Feb. 13, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced he would soon introduce a bill to reverse this rider. (Click here to read Senator Leahy’s Feb. 13 statement)