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USDA-AMS ISSUES FINAL RULE ON ORGANIC LIVESTOCK AND POULTRY

  

Jan 20, 2017

    

The Final Rule on organic livestock and poultry production practices was announced on January 18th in the waning days of the current administration and after Tom Vilsack, the previous Secretary of Agriculture defected to milk cows.

EGG-CITE will review the implications in a subsequent posting but the topic has been extensively discussed (see EGG-CITE January 6th. Enter “organic” in the SEARCH block).

The requirements include outside access equivalent to 2.25 pounds per square foot, limitations on ammonia levels in houses and upgraded space and equipment specifications. None of these “improvements” actually influence the organic composition of foods sold under the USDA Seal.

 

The space requirements were established by the 15-member National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) on recommendations received from the organic farming community and experts in the field.

As noted previously the outside space requirements eliminates eligibility for sun porches and effectively disqualifies large numbers of  in-line intensive egg production facilities currently supplying a high proportion of organic eggs retailed through mainstream supermarkets.

If the USDA is in fact committed to supporting continued growth of organic livestock and poultry and expanding the egg sector of the market, the newly released standards will effectively reduce demand by increasing the cost of production. The action by the NOSB and supported by administrators of the USDA-AMS, will be counterproductive resulting in out-pricing of USDA Certified Organic eggs relative to alternatives. The new standard will exclude purchase by a high proportion of consumers with budgetary restraints.

The myopic and biased views of the NOSB effectively will result in the emergence of a new category comprising eggs produced by feeding flocks non-GMO grains. Flocks will have access to screened sun-porches but will not have outside access, consistent with the need for biosecurity in the age of recurring HPAI worldwide. This category will be produced at a lower price compared to Certified Organic eggs applying the new standard. 

It is envisaged that non-GM Grain eggs will be promoted with branding and suitable advertising and accompanied by social media coverage. Many consumers currently willing to pay $4.00 per dozen for Certified Organic eggs will be able to buy the new category at a lower price than at present and certainly below the projected $6.50 or more for USDA Certified Organic after the new Rule takes effect.

 EGG-CITE reiterates that the new standards were introduced to discriminate against efficient egg producers who have invested in in-line facilities and thereby eliminate competition. The Final Rule has nothing to do with organic integrity or wholesomeness of product.