Tuesday, December 19, 2017

USDA withdraws tougher rules for organic eggs

A chicken at an organic farm in Dawson, Ill. (Associated Press photo by Seth Perlman)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Friday that it plans to withdraw Obama-era rules that would have required organic-egg producers to give hens room to graze outdoors, which would have made it much harder for large-scale poultry farms to earn an organic certification.

It was a widely anticipated move, since USDA has delayed the implementation of the rules several times. Smaller operators who demanded the stricter regulation say the rules were necessary for a level playing field and have vowed to file suit. "Smaller producers who provide open yards for egg-laying hens have complained that the loophole lets competitors reap the premium price of organic eggs without substantially changing their operations," Geoffrey Mohan reports for the Los Angeles Times. "Livestock and poultry companies, however, complained that the rules went beyond the intent of the original law establishing organic certification, which covered only feed and medicine.

"Current organic rules require animals to have "access" to the outdoors. The largest egg producers, however, have built chicken houses that hold tens of thousands of hens, and the hens have access to the outdoors only through small enclosed "porches." Under the new rules, finalized at the end of the Obama administration, these porches would no longer be adequate," Dan Charles reports for NPR.

The USDA says it will open a public comment period on the rule withdrawal before taking final action in early 2018. The rule would otherwise have taken effect in May.

No comments: