Wednesday, March 14, 2018

USDA kills animal welfare rules for organic meat

"New rules, decades in the making, that would have required organic meat and egg producers to abide by stricter animal welfare standards were withdrawn by the federal government on Monday, frustrating organic farmers and animal welfare groups but leaving some traditional egg and livestock farm groups rejoicing," David Pitt reports for The Associated Press.

The rules would have ensured improved living conditions for animals whose meat would be labeled organic. Livestock would have to have enough space to lie down and move around a little, chickens could not have their beaks removed and cattle could not have their tails cut off. All organically raised animals would be required to have proper ventilation and access to fresh air and direct sunlight.

The rules were published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture two days before President Obama left office in January 2017; the Trump administration repeatedly delayed implementing the rule before this week's announcement. USDA Marketing and Regulatory Program Undersecretary Greg Ibach said the rules would exceed the department's statutory authority, and that the organic industry's continued growth shows that consumers are fine with current rules.

Kansas Republican Pat Roberts, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, said in a statement that the rule would have increased the paperwork burden and driven up the cost of production for farmers and ranchers.

Organic dairy farmer Francis Thicke blamed industry lobbyists for the decision, and told Pitt some organic farmers are working on creating their own label, the Real Organic Project, which they hope to pilot on farms this summer and eventually roll out nationwide. The label would guarantee improved living standards for organically raised animals.

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