The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) proposed amended organic livestock and poultry production requirements on April 7. Unlike other voluntary animal welfare labels and/or standards created and overseen by animal welfare organization or food companies, organic livestock and poultry production requirements are backed by federal law and verified by third-party inspections. The National Organic Program, part of the AMS, is responsible for ensuring the integrity of organic U.S. and international agricultural products. The total retail market for U.S. organic products is now valued at more than $39 billion. According to AMS, the sector grew by 12 percent from 2014-15.
USDA indicates the purpose of the proposed changes is “to ensure consistent application of USDA organic regulations for organic livestock and poultry operations and maintain confidence in organically labeled products.” The changes are based on recommendations by the National Organic Standards Board and incorporate years of public comment and suggestions by stakeholders. As written, the proposed rule strengthens the existing animal welfare regulations for organic poultry, cattle, and pigs by adding new requirements for an animal’s living conditions, transportation, and slaughter. It also establishes minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for organic poultry.
The proposal gives guidance for organic producers and handlers to provide for their animals’ welfare. Major provisions include:
· Clarifying how producers and handlers must treat livestock and poultry to ensure their health and wellbeing throughout life, including transport and slaughter.
· Specifying which physical alterations are allowed and prohibited in organic livestock and poultry production.
· Establishing minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for poultry.
See text of the proposed rule in the Federal Register. USDA is inviting public comment on the rule and has extended the original comment period to July 13, 2016. Comments may be submitted online or by mail using the process outlined in the proposed rule, to Paul Lewis, National Organic Program, USDA-AMS-NOP, Room 2646-So., Ag Stop 0268, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-0268.