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PROPOSED UPGRADES OF THE ORGANIC RULE IN QUESTION

  

Jan 6, 2017

    

It is possible that the USDA-AMS has run out of time to be able to publish a Final Rule which is a prerequisite to implementing new regulations governing organic livestock production.

At issue for the egg-production industry is the proposed minimum outside access requirement. Proposed area requirements of up to 3 foot2 per hen would have effectively disqualified commercial organic production from in-line aviary operations with sun-porches. This would have benefitted small-scale independent or contract family farms. 

EGG-CITE has noted previously that the previous National Organic Standards Board favored so-called “small family farms” to the detriment of commercial family-owned complexes which effectively provide the bulk of organic eggs to the U.S. market. 

  

Tom Vilsack

Faithful to his favored constituency to the very end and erudite as ever, outgoing Secretary of the USDA, Tom Vilsack stated, “I’m hopeful that we can get them (the regulations) done”.  He added, “I can’t guaranteed that they’ll get done before I leave but I’m hopeful that they’ll get done”. 

It is acknowledged that there is lack of definition in current regulations which allows for individual interpretation by organic certifiers with resulting inconsistency across the organic egg industry. 

Outside access by flocks is in any event unnecessary with regard to welfare and productivity.  In the context of catastrophic diseases such as highly pathogenic avian influenza carried by free- living and migratory birds, outside access represents an unacceptable risk.  It is noted that veterinary authorities in all EU countries have specifically embargoed outside access and free-range housing for at least thirty days with every expectation of an extension, given the extent and rising incidence rate of infection.

Many of the concepts promoted by traditional organic producers have no scientific basis including the need to have contact with earth.  Proposed regulations were no more than a thinly veiled attempt to exclude existing in-line aviary complexes from participating in the organic market.

The evident bias by outgoing Secretary Vilsack and his appointees is evident in his statement on the proposed rules and in the actions by his Department during his eight-year tenure.