Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

chicken

The rule "was intended as a course correction for the $43 billion food industry, formulated to bring organic dairy, eggs, and meat production into line with consumer expectations." (Photo: Ivy Dawned/Flickr/cc)

Angering Organic Farmers and Advocates, Trump's USDA Kills Animal Welfare Rule

The rule would have "specified a set of standards for organic livestock and poultry designed to minimize stress, facilitate natural behaviors, and promote well-being."

Jessica Corbett

Angering organic farmers and advocates, the Trump administration announced on Monday that it will officially withdraw a rule that would have added animal welfare regulations for meat, eggs, and dairy marketed as "organic."

"The decision nullifies 14 years of policymaking in a process mandated by Congress, and marks an about-face for the agency."
—Lynne Curry, Civil Eats

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) killed the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule after deciding that it "exceeds the department's statutory authority, and that the changes to the existing organic regulations could have a negative effect on voluntary participation in the National Organic Program," according to a USDA statement.

While Greg Ibach, undersecretary for the USDA's marketing and regulatory program, claimed that "the existing robust organic livestock and poultry regulations are effective," organic farmers, animal rights advocates, and consumers who have supported the enhanced regulations—which were published on January 19, 2017 and would have taken effect in May—expressed disappointment with the move.

"The decision nullifies 14 years of policymaking in a process mandated by Congress, and marks an about-face for the agency," Lynne Curry wrote for Civil Eats. The rule would have "specified a set of standards for organic livestock and poultry designed to minimize stress, facilitate natural behaviors, and promote well-being," she noted in an update to a piece she published in December. As Curry explained:

Championed throughout the organic industry—from farmers to consumer groups to retailers and animal-welfare advocates—the OLPP was intended as a course correction for the $43 billion food industry, formulated to bring organic dairy, eggs, and meat production into line with consumer expectations of higher animal welfare. Trust in the organic seal depended on it, some advocates insisted.

But this latest USDA decision codifies the big rift between the majority of certified organic producers, who follow the spirit of the law, and the fewer, much larger producers who seek to gain market advantage, primarily by continuously confining animals that are required by law to have outdoor access. The USDA's ruling preserves the status quo, and fails to establish the USDA Organic label as the "gold standard" for organics that OLPP promised.

When the department moved to withdraw the rule in December, the industry group Organic Trade Association (OTA) said, "This groundless step by USDA is being taken against a backdrop of nearly universal support among the organic businesses, and consumers for the fully vetted rules that USDA has now rejected."

"It is against this overwhelming public input that USDA ignores growing consumer demands for food transparency," the group added. "It makes no sense that the Trump administration would pursue actions that could damage a marketplace that is giving American farmers a profitable alternative, creating jobs, and improving the economies of our rural areas."

Monday's annoucement came after the OTA requested oral hearings late last week for a lawsuit it filed against the USDA for repeatedly delaying and moving to withdraw the rule.

"Failure to implement the final rule, and its welfare provisions, will lead to irremediable damage to consumer trust in the USDA Organic seal," warned Jesse Laflamme, a supporter of the OTA lawsuit and co-founder of Pete & Gerry's Eggs, which partners with over more than family-owned farms in 14 states. "Our farmers will suffer severe financial setbacks."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Ahead of Canadian Election, Bernie Sanders and Rashida Tlaib Endorse NDP

"Bernie, you have fought courageously for public healthcare, affordable medication, making the rich pay their fair share, and tackling the climate crisis," said party leader Jagmeet Singh. "We're doing the same here."

Jessica Corbett ·


US Urged to End Drone Strikes After Pentagon Says Killing 10 Afghan Civilians Was 'Horrible Mistake'

"That was not a 'mistake,'" said journalist Anand Giridharadas. "War crimes are not oopsies."

Brett Wilkins ·


40+ NYC Activists Arrested for Protests Against Banks Fueling Climate Emergency

"We're sending a message loud and clear that the little action that politicians and greenwashing CEOs have taken so far does not begin to deal with the magnitude of this crisis."

Jessica Corbett ·


FDA Panel Recommends Pfizer Booster Shots for People 65+ and Especially Vulnerable

The scientific advisory committee voted down a recommendation for other adults.

Common Dreams staff ·


'What Betrayal Looks Like': UN Report Says World on Track for 2.7°C of Warming by 2100

"Whatever our so-called 'leaders' are doing," said Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, "they are doing it wrong."

Jake Johnson ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo