Under pressure from Congress, Trump’s USDA wants to take the 2015 origin of livestock rule out for a spin.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) decided to first open the rule to another 60-day public comment period with a Dec. 2nd deadline.

After collecting 1,583 public comments during 2015 on the livestock rule, the Obama administration parked the regulation.

Demand for re-starting the stalled live rule has come from the organic industry and its friends in Congress. House and Senate ag spending bills call for USDA to issue the final rule within 180 days of the signing of a final spending bill.

Those demanding the rule be put back on the track also acknowledge it’s reach is limited.

“It should be noted that the origin of organic livestock rulemaking initiated on April 28, 2015, does not limit, in any way, the ability of a conventional dairy producer to convert their existing herd to organic production. The rulemaking is intended to bring consistency in application and a level playing field to all organic dairy producers.”

The Organic Trade Asociation (OTA) made that comment in a letter earlier this year to USDA’s Greg Ibach, undersecretary for marketing and regulatory affairs.   OTA favors change because there is a “lack of uniform enforcement under the existing regulation.

“The regulation requires that milk sold as organic must come from animals that have been under continuous organic management practices for at least one year,” OTA’s letter to Ibach added. “The rule allows a one-time transition of a herd from conventional to organic production, but once a distinct herd has been transitioned, all dairy animals including replacement animals must be raised organically from the last third of gestation. Transitioning cows in and out of organic production are strictly prohibited.”

“While we believe most dairy producers comply with this requirement, we are aware that some certifiers are granting organic certification to operations that are removing calves from organic herds, raising them using conventional dairy practices prohibited in organic production, and then transitioning them back to organic management closer to the time of milk production,” the OTA letter continues. “The continued allowance of this practice is disrupting the marketplace, putting certifiers, farmers, and buyers potentially at odds and risking the overall integrity of the seal.”

The proposed livestock rule addresses the “inconsistency in the enforcement of the organic standards.” It puts more limits on ” transitioning”  to keep the practice to a one-time event.

During the comment period that ended in 2015, the OTA also  commented as follows:

“OTA welcomes the proposed rule on the origin of livestock and wish to see its swift move to the final rule. However, in order to ensure the rule levels the playing field among organic livestock producers in a way that is easily understandable to the entire organic supply chain, we feel that the following changes must be incorporated into the final rule:

• One-time transition should be tied to each individual “certified operation” (that meets the definition of a proposed new term: “dairy operation”) rather than “producer” because this term and approach is better understood by the entire organic supply chain and accomplishes the same restrictions in how origin of livestock is regulated on organic dairy operations.

• Breeder stock used to produce organic offspring should not be allowed to rotate in and out of organic production, and the regulations should reflect the language contained in the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), which allows the purchase of non-organic breeding stock from any source.

• Third-year transitional crops fed to transitioning dairy animals must be produced on the certified dairy operations and described in its Organic System Plan (OSP).

• Issuance of a final rule should include an 18-month implementation period to allow adequate time for businesses to adjust their practices and for education and enforcement of the rule revisions.

• Disallowing a one-time transition for fiber-bearing animals puts U.S. livestock producers at a global disadvantage in accessing organic textile markets, and thus fiber animals should be allowed to be transitioned into organic production like dairy animals.”

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