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NOP Releases Proposed Pasture Regulation

New proposed pasture regulation for organic livestock production has been released. The proposed regulations could mean major change for organic livestock producers. Comments on the recommendation requested.

The National Organic Program has released it's proposed pasture regulation.  These proposed changes, if adopted, would affect every organic livestock producer, regardless of size, livestock species, or region.  There is a 60 day comment period.  Comments on this proposal are due by December 23rd, 2008.  Oregon TIlth will be commenting and will be happy to collect comments from any of our certified operations and submit them on your behalf.  We also encourage you to contact your industry organizations or submit comments as an individual.  All comments will be considered by the National Organic Program and are very instrumental in shaping the regulation.

A summary of the changes are provided below, please read through them carefully and see how they may affect your operation.  Let us know what you think! 

Contact Kristy Korb, Certification Director or Tiffanie Huson Labbe, Farm Program Manager at 503.378.0690. 

The full proposal can be found on the National Organic Program's website, or download here (pdf)

Proposed changes:

A major change is that there is no exception for inclement weather for confinement of ruminants, they must be managed  year-round on pasture.  Pasture has to provide 30% DMI during the growing season. Sacrificial pasture must be supplied when soils are too wet. Beef may not be finished in feedlots/dry lots. Very specific requirements have been added for record keeping and living conditions.

Summary of changes:

1) Producers must not "prevent , withhold, restrain or restrict"  ruminants from feeding on pasture during the growing season (growing season defined as frost to frost; can be from 120 to 365 days depending on climate/region). The only exceptions being: illness, birthing, newborns up to 6 months, short periods for milking. This does not allow inclement weather as an exception for temporary confinement and will not allow ruminants to be finished in feedlots or drylots.

2) During growing season, requires no more than 70% dry matter from non-pasture feed. Requires Producers to conduct monthly calculation of feed ration for each type/class of animal, daily dry matter demand, daily dry matter fed, daily percentage dry matter fed.  Formulas for calculation are provided. 

3) Requires year round access for all animals, adds clarification for required water for drinking , indoors and outdoors, and clean dry bedding means that corn cobs and straw must be organic.

4) Replacement animals for those dairies that transitioned using 80-20 or fed 3rd year transitional feed  can only  "bring in"  replacements that are managed from the last third of gestation. *Note for 80-20 transitioned dairies, this is not a change.

5) Confirms that agricultural ingredients (molasses, rice hulls, other carriers, etc) in feed additives and supplements must be organic. *Note: This is not a change from Oregon Tilth's current policy. 3) Clarifies but really reiterates that livestock feed cannot contain antibioitcs.  *Note: this is not a change from Oregon Tilth's policy, anitbiotic has not been allowed in feeds, feed supplements, or livestock health treatments. 

6) The exceptions for Temporary confinement of  non-ruminants has not been altered much, allowing for inclement weather, animals "stage of life", conditions affecting health and safety, risk to soil and water.

7) New section for ruminants stating that temporary "denial of animal pasture"  is only allowed for illness, birthing, newborns up to 6 months, short periods for milking. Goats may be confined for inclement weather, but not sheep.

New section Ruminant living conditions requires the following:


  • yards and passageways must be in good condition and well drained
  • shade must be provided,
  • goats must have a shelter open on one side
  • water must be provided at all times except during milking or shearing
  • feeding and watering equipment must be designed not to foul, and must be cleaned weekly
  • newborns must have hay at 7 days, in a rack off the ground unless on pasture. Must be on pasture no later than 6 months old. [ note -calves can't really eat hay at 7 days]
  • ponds, streams , and other bodies of water must be fenced to prevent animals and waste from entering


New section: 205.240 Pasture practice standard requires a pasture plan with the following:

  • must specify type of haymaking system, crops grown
  • must show that system will produce enough pasture of sufficient quality for grazing through the growing season, to provide not less than 30% DMI from grazing during growing season
  • location  and types of fences, source of shade and water
  • description of erosion control , protection of water, soil and water quality
  • description of pasture and soil "sustainability practices" 
  • restoration of pasture practice

Comments can be submitted to Oregon Tilth, or comments will be accepted by mail directly to the NOP:

Richard H. Mathews
Chief, Standards Development and Review Branch
National Organic Program
1400 Independence Ave. SW
Room 4008–So., Ag Stop 0268
Washington, DC 20250


Oregon Tilth's supports these changes to the proposed pasture regulation:


  • OTCO supports the addition of a definition of grazing or growing season, but it should include language that reflects all production regions, not just those that experience frosts
  • Supports clarification that lactation and other normal production stages should not warrant confinement.
  • Supports clarification of temporary confinement allowances.
  • Organic dairy livestock over 6 months of age must graze on pasture during the months of the year when pasture can provide edible forage. 
  • Temporary exemption from pasture may be allowed because of:
  1. Conditions under which the health, safety, or well-being of the animal could be jeopardized, including to restore the health of an individual animal or to prevent the spread of disease from an infected animal to other animals.
  2. Short-term inclement weather. 
  3. Temporary conditions which pose a risk to soil and water quality. In no case will temporary confinement and exemption from this pasture standard be allowed as a continuous production system.


Oregon Tilth does not support the following components in the proposed regulation:

  • The regulation should exclude any calculations, numerical requirements, and additional documentation (30% DMI, 120 day grazing season, etc)
  • The requirement to have sacrificial pasture 240(c) should be removed.
  • The origin of livestock language should not be put into proposed language regarding pasture
  • Clarification for temporary confinement should not exclude inclement weather.
  • Remove requirements for onerous record keeping
  • Remove prescriptive production requirements such as feeding calves, cleaning water troughs, etc.
  • Remove requirement to establish a pasture management and hay making production system plans.  The management of pasture and other forages are already part of a livestock operation’s Class O (Crop) organic system plan.  This does not need to be duplicated or expanded.

This pasture request really is a call to reinforce the intent of the Organic Food Production Act. The intent is for an organic livestock operation to maximize available forages during the growing/grazing season, maintain cattle on pasture with a focus on welfare, and to do so in a sustainable & resource conservation conscious manner. Grazing or growing season can be defined & temporary confinement can be clarified, as requested by the industry, however the rest should be enforcement by the ACA’s & governance of the ACA’s.


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