There are only 10 days left for comment before the USDA can finalize the organic livestock and poultry rule for the National Organic Program. If passed, new animal welfare standards will apply to animals raised under the USDA Organic label.
If any of this sounds familiar, it should. The rule is similar to one that was withdrawn under the Trump administration. Each year, the USDA’s National Organic Program oversees the handling of more than 186 million farm animals.
Animal rights groups, such as the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) are at the forefront of the lobby pushing for the rule.
The new rule is largely about the details, for example:
— Meshed areas with roofs will no longer count as outdoor access for laying hens.
— The butchering of birds would be prohibited.
— Tail docking of pigs would be prohibited.
— Face branding and tail docking of cattle would be prohibited.
— Gestation crates for pregnant pigs would be prohibited.
— Perches should be provided for laying hens.
— Pigs would be guaranteed bedding and covering materials as “environmental enrichment”.
The current rule would have the approval of 57 US Representatives and 20 US Senators.
The USDA is expected to give existing organic farmers up to 15 years to comply with the new outdoor space requirements. This is to give them time to fund and build the infrastructure that is supposed to be more to the liking of affected farm animals.
According to SWI, consumers already believe that by buying organic meat and poultry products, animal welfare is already covered. Their survey shows that 80% of organic consumers say that animal welfare is important in their decision to buy organic products. And 85% want the federal government to set clear and uniform standards for animals raised under the organic label.
And consumers prefer a transition period of 3 years, not 15 years.
Here’s how to log in to the commenting process while there’s time left:
Oral comments: The recording of oral comments is closed. The deadline to register for an oral comment slot is 11:59 p.m. EDT on November 10. The deadline has been extended by 30 days from the original date of October 11. This extension has been made to ensure that all stakeholders and individuals have sufficient time. to provide their comments and suggestions on the proposed rule.
Federal Electronic Rulemaking Portal: https://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting written comments. The deadline for submitting written comments is 11:59 p.m. EDT, November 10. The deadline has been extended by 30 days from the original date of October 11. This extension has been made to ensure that all stakeholders and individuals have sufficient time to provide their comments and suggestions on the proposed rule.
Mail: AMS strongly prefers comments to be submitted electronically. However, written comments may be submitted (i.e., postmarked) by mail to Erin Healy, MPH., Director Standards Division, National Organic Program, USDA-AMS-NOP, Room 2646-So. , Ag Stop 0268, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20250-0268. Comments posted must be postmarked by November 10.
To access the filing, including reference materials and comments received, go to https://www.regulations.gov (search for the filing “AMS-NOP-21-0073”). Comments submitted in response to this proposed rule may also be viewed in person at USDA-AMS, National Organic Program, Room 2646-South Building, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC, 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. at 4 p.m., Monday to Friday (except official holidays). Persons wishing to visit the USDA South Building to view comments received in response to this proposed rule are asked to make an appointment in advance by calling 202-720-3252.
Contact: Erin Healy, MPH, Director of Standards Division, Phone: (202) 720-3252; Email: [email protected]
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