Leahy, et al, urge swift implementation of proposed rule on organic standards

Vermont Business Magazine Senator Patrick Leahy last week led a group of 20 senators in writing to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to convey their support for the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards (OLPS) proposed rule. Senators Gillibrand, Brown, Blumenthal, Sanders, Shaheen, Smith, Booker, Tester, Baldwin, Hassan, Wyden, Feinstein, Van Hollen, Padilla, King, Casey, Luján, Collins, and Merkley joined Leahy in urging USDA to limit the timeframe for implementation to no longer than three years.

The proposed rule makes progress on animal welfare by clarifying that enclosed, screened-in porches do not constitute outdoor access, and creating minimum indoor and outdoor space and enrichment requirements for organically raised chickens.

Especially important is the fact that it levels the playing field for organic producers who already are meeting these expectations and ensures that consumers know what they are feeding their families.

Leahy, who is widely known as the ‘father’ of the national organic standards and labeling program, said: “I’m pleased to see USDA under the Biden administration taking firm action to defend organic standards. The Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards rule, alongside the Origin of Livestock rule published in March, will ensure that all organic producers are playing by the same rules, and that consumers can trust the organic seal.”

“The National Organic Program should be acting as intended — protecting animals raised on organic farms and keeping consumers accurately aware of farming conditions — not obscuring the truth and allowing cruel farming practices to get a pass,” said Matt Bershadker, ASPCA President and CEO. “The exploitation of the flaws in the National Organic Program has put the welfare of millions of animals at risk, and we thank Senator Leahy for leading 19 of his colleagues in urging the USDA to revisit the OLPS rule to fix inconsistencies and loopholes in the program.”

“When USDA finalizes the organics rule, it will be a landmark federal standard to eliminate cruel gestation crates and cages, providing space for pigs, chickens and other species and banning cruel practices such as face branding and tail docking. Americans want to know organic products provide for animal welfare and that the label means something,” said Sara Amundson, president of Humane Society Legislative Fund. “Senator Leahy has demonstrated tireless leadership to ensure that the organics program fulfills its promise, and we’re counting on Secretary Vilsack to finalize this crucial rule quickly.”

“USDA’s proposed Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards rule marks a significant milestone for animal welfare, as the first set of substantive standards for the raising of farm animals at the federal level. This landmark rule will directly improve the lives of millions of farm animals in the United States,” said Cathy Liss, President of the Animal Welfare Institute. “We commend Senator Leahy – who has long championed organic farming – for leading this bipartisan letter to Secretary Vilsack to ensure these long-awaited regulations are finalized and implemented as swiftly as possible. Efforts to improve conditions for animals raised on organic farms have been decades in the making, so we are grateful to Senator Leahy for his continued engagement and to the many senators who joined him in underscoring the importance of enhancing animal welfare and fulfilling the mission of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.”

“The Organic Trade Association applauds Senator Leahy and his colleagues in the U.S. Senate for their bipartisan effort to fight for strong animal welfare standards in the USDA organic program. As the original author of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, Senator Leahy is the foremost expert in the Senate on the legal authority and intent of the law that established the national organic standards,” said Tom Chapman, OTA’s CEO. “Strong public trust in the USDA organic seal is critical to protecting the integrity of the thriving $63 billion industry. The Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards proposed rule will ensuring that consumer expectations for high animal welfare standards are met and that organic farmers and businesses are competing on a level playing field with consistent and clear requirements that make the highest standard of care the baseline.”

See letter to USDA here.

(THURSDAY, Oct. 27, 2022) – Senator Patrick Leahy