Oregon Tilth Disputes USDA’s Dismissal of Animal Welfare Standards in Organic
Oregon Tilth is opposed to the final decision of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) to remove the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP).
For over a decade, Oregon Tilth, farmers, processors, consumers, and hundreds of other public advocates have worked to develop OLPP as a policy change for animal welfare practices.
The withdrawal of OLPP is an ill-founded rejection of a thoughtful, time-intensive engagement of public-private stakeholders in policy making for public benefit. The decision to kill the “animal welfare” rule is in direct opposition to overwhelming support for the policy change. By the USDA’s count, “out of the more than 50,000 comments the [USDA] received in the [November 2017] public comment period for the regulation, 99 percent were in favor of the rule becoming effective without further delay.”
The USDA National Organic Program is the only government-regulated, voluntary marketplace food label initiative that provides enforceable statutes for food production in the United States. For certified organic producers, the label is a hard-earned conversation in one word — organic — that offers a connection with and verifiable claim to the millions of consumers that make up the sector’s $48 billion food economy. OLPP is vital “to assure consumers that organically produced products meet a consistent and uniform standard.”
The abrupt switch from justification for OLPP to now disallowing the rule to become effective, coupled with a microscopic 0.059 percent of more than 50,000 public comments in opposition to the rule, undermines public trust in the USDA, National Organic Program, and our national food systems.
We concur with organic farmer and Representative Chellie Pingree that the proposed dissolution of OLPP “should not be allowed to stand.”
OLPP is one of the USDA’s best examples of how public policy should and could align consumer expectations in the marketplace with organic producers undertaking significant efforts to earn their confidence. Oregon Tilth and the USDA National Organic Program serve as trusted resources in a crowded landscape of food claims. We believe that everyone deserves the right to know the impact of their purchase and how it supports what is most important to them. We understand how complicated and challenging “going organic” is for a new farmer or handler. It should be; the organic label is a crucial marketplace declaration that consumers rely on.
OLPP represents rigorous, consistent, enforceable and sensible changes to maintain the integrity of organic products in a growing marketplace. Oregon Tilth is in opposition to the withdrawal of the final rule and requests immediate implementation of OLPP to continue the development of a values-directed, market-driven pathway for farmers and processors to connect with consumers. We support suits filed against the USDA by the Organic Trade Association and The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.