USDA Issues Fresh Standards Governing Organic Livestock and Poultry Production - LivestockTrend


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Monday 27 November 2023

USDA Issues Fresh Standards Governing Organic Livestock and Poultry Production

Photo credit: USDA

Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack unveiled the final rule for Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards (OLPS) today. 

This comprehensive regulation establishes clear and robust standards for the production of organic livestock and poultry, aiming to create a level playing field for farmers and businesses in the organic sector. The primary goal is to foster fair and competitive markets for organic products while enhancing transparency for consumers.

The impetus for this change came from a strong interest expressed by consumers and the organic industry. The USDA actively sought public input, receiving over 40,000 written comments that were meticulously reviewed to shape the final rule. Additionally, a listening session in August 2022 provided a platform for public comments on the proposed rule.

OLPS focuses on enhancing uniformity in animal welfare practices for organic livestock and poultry. The final rule delineates more consistent standards in six key areas:

  1. Outdoor space requirements: OLPS mandates minimum outdoor space for organic poultry with ready access to the outdoors, comprising at least 75 percent soil and vegetation.
  2. Indoor and outdoor living conditions: Shelters must provide ample space for livestock to engage in natural behaviors, ensuring hygiene and comfort.
  3. Poultry stocking densities: Specific requirements for indoor and outdoor stocking densities align with advisory board recommendations and stakeholder feedback.
  4. Preventative health care practices: Producers must adhere to practices ensuring sufficient nutrition, comprehensive parasite prevention, and humane treatment, even if it results in the loss of organic status.
  5. Physical alterations and euthanasia: Strict guidelines permit physical alterations only for identification or safety purposes, with humane euthanasia as a last resort.
  6. Transport, handling, and slaughter: Operations must detail organic management and animal welfare during transport exceeding eight hours, adhering to humane slaughter standards.

USDA's National Organic Program, in collaboration with accredited certifiers, will oversee the enforcement and implementation of these new standards to support the organic market's growth.

Implementation of OLPS is expected to provide increased opportunities for organic farmers, ranchers, and businesses, including those transitioning to organic practices. The rule aims to align organic standards with consumer expectations for animal welfare, fostering consumer trust in the USDA organic seal. The announcement reinforces the USDA's ongoing mission to safeguard the integrity of the organic seal and maintain strong consumer confidence.

In a parallel development earlier this year, the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) offered a preview of the Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) final rule. Representing the most significant update to organic regulations since 1990, this final rule grants increased oversight and enforcement authority to enhance consumer, farmer, and transitioning producer trust.

The final OLPS rule will soon be published in the Federal Register, and a preview is available on the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) website.

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