For years, the US has developed organic farming requirements and the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) rule would have given poultry more space to roam and improved livestock handling and transport conditions for slaughter animals. Instead, the Trump administration has binned it.
Bad practice in the private sector can undermine the USDA Organic label, the NFU said, adding that the US government’s withdrawal of the policy could have a similar effect.
Inconsistent organic certification befogs consumers
“Central to the success of the National Organic Program is integrity in the label,” said the NFU board.
“Despite stakeholder demands for consistency, certifiers have inconsistently applied animal husbandry standards across the industry. Consumer confusion threatens the continued success of the program and the significant investment family farmers have made.”
Organic certifiers across the US are “inconsistently” applying animal welfare standards to farming operations, which is damaging the integrity of the USDA Organic label, NFU said. The union wanted the OLPP rule because it could have mitigated consumer concerns around what practices organic farming represent by standardising requirements for livestock and poultry farming at federal level.
The OLPP rule enjoys wide industry support from farmers, organic trade organisations and animal welfare advocacy groups.
In response to an earlier government request for comment on its proposal to axe the policy, 47,000 comments were submitted to the USDA. Of those, 99% were in favour of retaining the rule, according to the Organic Trade Association.
It claimed demand for food produced to higher standards is growing domestically, with sales of organic food in the US surpassing US$43bn in 2016. And the rule would have made it easier for consumers to make informed purchasing decisions on organic food because farming practices would be standardised, it said.
“The maintenance of high standards for the organic program is essential for the continuance of consumer confidence and the economic viability of the program for family farmers,” said the NFU board. “We urge USDA to make the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule effective immediately.”
The USDA could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.