USDA’s Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule now is pending at the White House Office of Management and Budget, the last step in the rulemaking process before it becomes final. The National Pork Producers Council is urging the USDA to withdraw the rule, or if it’s approved before Jan. 20, the Trump USDA to repeal it. In comments in opposition to the rule submitted in July, the NPPC says the regulation’s new animal welfare standards for the National Organic Program, if enacted, would be the first time such criteria are codified in federal law and would present serious challenges to livestock producers. There are a number of problems with the proposed welfare rules, the NPPC pointed out in its comments, including:
♦ Animal handling practices are not a defining characteristic of organic agriculture and are not germane to the National Organic Program as authorized by Congress.
♦ The livestock practices will be costly (if even practicable) to implement for current organic producers and serve as a barrier to new producers entering organic production, without making the resulting products substantively more organic.
♦ Consumer misconception about the intent of the National Organic Program and the meaning of its label is not a valid rationale for expanding the program to encompass animal welfare.
♦ Animal welfare is complex and dynamic; decisions about animal care need to be science based and carefully considered by each producer.
♦ The proposed livestock and poultry practices present significant challenges to the maintenance and promotion of public and animal health.
NPPC requested that USDA reconsider the proposed animal welfare standards, arguing that, because animal welfare is not germane under the Organic Foods Production Act, USDA does not have clear authority to promulgate such rules. It also pointed out that the regulation would have a negative effect on the cost and availability of organic livestock and poultry products, cannot be justified by claims that it will clarify public expectations about organic labels or address an unfair competitive disadvantage facing organic producers, are not science based and present real challenges to protecting animal and public health.