The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has published a proposed amendment to the federal organic regulations that sets new grazing requirements for organic livestock and bans confined feedlots from the industry.
The USDA’s proposed rule clarifies requirements for organic livestock producers, principally dairy farmers, requiring their animals to graze on pasture and consume a significant percentage of their feed intake during the growing season. The rule also proposes expanding the definition of livestock to include bees and aquatic animals.
According to the Organic Trade Association (OTA), this regulation will continue to reinforce for shoppers that organic dairy products and beef, for example, are from animals that are receiving proper feed, access to fresh air and sunshine, and well-managed living conditions.
"Organic production is about continuous improvement of farms and the environment, and this proposed regulation is the next step in improvements for organic dairy, beef, lamb and goat production in the United States,” said Christine Bushway, OTA's executive director.
The Cornucopia Institute, however, has brought to light some concerns about the new proposal from past chair and member of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), Jim Riddle.
“While I appreciate the fact that the USDA has issued proposed rules to clarify pasture requirements, based on NOSB recommendations, I am very concerned about the proposed language on dairy replacement animals,” said Riddle.
Added Riddle, “The proposed change, contrary to language recommended by the NOSB, would institutionalize the current two-track system, which allows certain operations to continually bring in conventional heifers, while other operations are required to use only replacement heifers that have been raised organically from the last third of gestation. There should be one standard for all organic dairy farms, once they have converted to organic production.”
USDA is accepting public comments on the proposed regulations until December 23.