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Organic Trade Association applauds Senate Appropriators for moving forward Origin of Livestock rulemaking

Maggie McNeil
(202) 403-8514
(202) 615-7997
Washington , DC
September 17, 2019
) — 

The Organic Trade Association applauds the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee for protecting organic dairy farmers and ensuring that consumers can trust the integrity of organic.
On Tuesday, the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee passed the Agriculture Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2020 which requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to issue a final rule on the Origin of Livestock. The action by the Senate subcommittee follows passage in June by the full House of Representatives on a spending bill that included the same language, demonstrating strong congressional and bi-partisan support for this important organic issue.
“Organic dairy is struggling now, and people’s livelihoods are at stake,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “Organic dairy farmers need to be competing on a level playing field. They depend on organic standards to preserve the integrity of the Organic seal, and on the Department of Agriculture to make sure those standards are clear and strong. Implementation of this final rule will ensure a fair environment for farmers, and ensure consumers that they’re getting what they pay for when they buy organic dairy.”
The Organic Trade Association looks forward to this bill becoming law, and to the USDA expeditiously implementing the final rule on the Origin of Livestock.
The trade association thanks Chairman John Hoeven, Ranking Member Jeff Merkley, and all the members of the committee for their hard work in getting this critical provision for organic dairy farmers included in the bill.

The Origin of Livestock regulation states that organic milk must be from livestock that have been under continuous organic management for at least one year. This one-year transition period is intended to be allowed only when converting a conventional herd to organic. Once a distinct herd has been converted to organic production, all dairy animals must be under organic management from the last third of gestation. However, a 2013 report by the USDA Inspector General found that there were inconsistent intrepreations of the regulation and a lack of clarity, and recommended that USDA issue a rule to ensure consistent standards. In 2015, USDA issued a proposed rule that was widely supported by the organic dairy industry and stakeholders, but a final rule has yet to be issued by the Department. The lack of action has led to inconsistenty in enforcing the standards, which has resulted in  a much lower cost of production for a handful of dairies that are not following the intent of the rule, causing direct harm to the organic dairy market.
The trade association and its members have been actively calling on USDA to issue a final rule. In February 2019, the association’s Dairy Council sent a letter to the Departement urging immediate action. The companies and farms that signed the letter represented over 90% of the organic dairy market. Additionally, the association and its members have been calling on Congress to include language in the Fiscal 2020 Appropriations legislation requiring the Department to issue a final rule within 180 day of enactment of the law without further delay.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. OTA is the leading voice for the organic trade in the United States, representing over 9,500 organic businesses across 50 states. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA’s Board of Directors is democratically elected by its members. OTA's mission is to promote and protect ORGANIC with a unifying voice that serves and engages its diverse members from farm to marketplace.