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Media Alert: Organic Trade Association welcomes judge’s decision to hear animal welfare case

Maggie McNeil
(
mmcneil@ota.com
(202) 403-8514
(202) 615-7997
)
 (
October 4, 2018
) — 

The Organic Trade Association on Thursday welcomed the decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia today to hear the association’s case against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) over the agency’s failure to put into effect new organic livestock standards.

"We are delighted the court has agreed to hold a hearing despite the USDA's objections. Our case is moving forward,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “We are also encouraged that the court will hear our challenge to the entire, year-long pattern of unlawful conduct by USDA. The Organic Trade Association believes that beginning with the first delay that was undertaken without an opportunity for public notice and comment shortly after the current administration took office, until the final withdrawal of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Production rule in March 2018, that USDA has engaged in a pattern of misconduct that can only be corrected by a federal court."

“We are confident our case is strong and we look forward to winning this legal battle to uphold organic standards,” said Batcha. “There should be no doubt that the Organic Trade Association and its member businesses have a material stake in the outcomes of USDA actions to kill a final organic standard. Consumers trust that the Organic seal represents meaningful differences in the production of crops and the raising of animals, and any shaking of that trust harms organic producers and businesses. The Organic Trade Association will continue to fight for the public process that is a critical part of the USDA organic seal".

Background:
The USDA in March withdrew the final Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) regulation, which was to go into effect in May. The agency contends that the Organic Food and Production Act (OFPA) does not give the National Organic Program the authority to regulate animal welfare. The Organic Trade Association is arguing that this claim is a radically different view from any administration since the adoption of the National Organic Program, and one that cannot be legally supported.

The Organic Trade Association filed its original lawsuit against the USDA in September of 2017 over the agency’s continued delay of the final organic welfare standard. The association subsequently submitted an amended complaint in April of this year to reflect the department’s withdrawal of the rule. The Organic Trade Association is also arguing that the USDA violated the Organic Foods Production Act by failing to consult with the National Organic Standards Board on this rollback of the final organic animal welfare standard, and unlawfully delayed the effective date of the final livestock standards developed by industry and in accordance with the established rule-making processes. The suit argues that USDA’s repeated delays were issued without the required public process, and that USDA arbitrarily ignored the overwhelming public record established in support of these organic standards.

For the complete background on this issue, see https://ota.com/livestockpractices.

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