That new animal welfare rule for the Organic Label may be held up by a hidden force, namely Big Ag.
The Cornucopia Institute, the nonprofit that claims to watch out for the integrity of certified organic food and says it is safer than non-organics, has said that “the long arms of Big Ag” are reaching into organic to kill the new animal welfare regulation.
The landing wheels should be on the Organic Livestock and Poultry rule under the National Organic Program. But every day USDA does not land the new standards for animals raised under the Organic Label, there will be doubts about a hidden hand being at work.
Cornucopia claims there’s “a flurry of closed-door meetings with lawmakers” occurring to draw out the public process on the animal welfare rule for organic “giving the conventional food industry more time to overwhelm the Federal Register with reasons to kill it.”
The proposed Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards (OLPS) make animal welfare an essential part of the Organic Label, which Congress first mandated in 1990. Cornucopia is among organic stakeholders that would really prefer a stricter animal welfare rule, but accept OLPS as a starting point.
Melody Morrell, Cornucopia’s executive director says improved animal welfare threatens the bottom line for traditional food producers.
She says Big Ag is concerned that mounting attention to the true costs of industrial agriculture will eventually lead to more regulatory oversight that could “obliterate their business model.”
“What’s good for shareholders is brutal for livestock and poultry,” Morrell says. She says the stakes for organic farmers who already employ ethical livestock operations are high. “It is unlikely we will get another chance to ensure that animal welfare improves under the organic label,” she added.
“We need animal welfare improvements immediately,” says Cornucopia President Camero Molberg, an organic broiler producer. “This rule has been 20 years in the making and we cannot miss this opportunity.”
Part of the reason that advocates may fear that the new animal welfare rule may slip again is that it has happened before. The current rule is similar to one that was withdrawn by President Trump’s administration. USDA’s National Organic Program could regulate more than 186 million farm animals.
Organic producers are likely to get up to 15 years to comply with the new rule to give them time to finance and build certain infrastructure. Animal welfare details are numerous, including providing outdoor access, banning gestation crates, providing perches for laying hens and more.
USDA is closed to any more oral arguments on the rule, and written comments terminate at 11:59 p.m. EDT, on Nov. 10, 2022. Cornucopia is urging organic consumers and producers to get in last-minute comments if for no other reason than to offset those of opponents.
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