Friday, April 08, 2016

USDA proposes stricter regulations for treatment of livestock by organic producers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed new regulations on the treatment of livestock and poultry by organic producers, Lydia Wheeler reports for The Hill. "The rules set maximum indoor and outdoor living space requirements. Barns, pens, coops and other shelters, for example, have to be big enough for the animals to lie down, stand up and fully stretch their limbs without touching other animals or the sides of the shelter. They must also be designed to allow the animals to express normal patterns of behavior. Under the USDA’s proposal, organic livestock would also receive 'unencumbered' access to the outdoors at all times unless the animals need to be confined to protect them from predators."

"USDA estimates the rule will cost organic farmers $9.5 million to $24.1 million per year over the next 13 years, and public benefits are estimated to range from $14.7 million to $62.6 million per year," Wheeler writes. Dena Jones, farm animal policy director for the Animal Welfare Institute, told Wheeler, "The lack of specific requirements for animal welfare has resulted in great variability in the level of animal care provided by organic producers. Some producers raise animals on pasture with high welfare, while others raise animals in a manner similar to conventional, intensive agriculture. In some instances organically raised animals are never even given the opportunity to go outdoors.”

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