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Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards Proposed Rule Published

The Organic Trade Association praises progress on animal welfare, urges swift action from USDA

Reana Kovalcik
(202) 615-7997
August 9, 2022
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The Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards (OLPS) proposed rule represents a serious step from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) toward updating key organic animal welfare provisions first introduced over twenty years ago. On August 5, USDA announced the proposed rule and on August 9 published a Request for Comment in the Federal Register. The written comment period will close at midnight on October 11. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) will submit comments urging USDA to standardize organic livestock and poultry regulations and swiftly implement widely-supported animal welfare reforms.  

“After 20 years stuck in limbo, organic animal welfare reforms are finally back on the agenda at USDA,” says OTA CEO & Executive Director Tom Chapman. “The Organic Trade Association welcomes the release of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards proposed rule, which will level the playing field for organic producers and raise the bar so that the highest standard of care becomes the baseline.” 

OLPS clarifies living conditions, physical alterations, transportation and slaughter practices, and preventive healthcare practices for avian and mammalian livestock species. The proposed rule is largely in-line with its predecessor, the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule, which was pulled abruptly by the Trump Administration following a robust comment period during which nearly 120,000 comments were submitted – 99% of them supportive/positive. Notable new language includes: 

  • Acknowledgement by USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) that current conditions are causing consumer confusion and market failure. 
  • Adoption of the position that the Organic Foods Production Act does provide the requisite authority for regulations regarding livestock and poultry health care practices and living conditions – including regulations regarding animal welfare, 
  • Clarification that enclosed “porches” do not constitute outdoor access for poultry and recognition by AMS that improved outdoor access would contribute to “cycling of resources and ecological balance values reflected in the regulation.” 

Additionally, USDA is requesting comments on variable implementation times for egg laying operations: 5 Years for operations certified within three years of the effective date (same approach as OLPP); 15 Years for operations certified at time of rule’s effective date (new entrants certified within three years of the effective date would have five years to comply); any other suggestions from public comments. 

“While we are pleased to see organic animal welfare moving forward at USDA, we are extremely concerned by the potential for an inflated 15-year implementation timeline for egg operations,” says Chapman. “USDA has already had 15-plus years of comments and engagement on this issue, there is no reason to wait 15 more. American families expect USDA organic regulations to be robust and to continuously improve; keeping open loopholes that perpetuate uneven animal care erodes consumer trust and harms the organic farmers who are placed at a competitive disadvantage by treating their birds right.” 

OTA’s full summary of the proposed rule can be found on our website.