USDA opens comment period on organic livestock rule |

USDA opens comment period on organic livestock rule

-The Hagstrom Report

The Agriculture Department’s Agricultural Marketing Service is reopening the comment period on the organic livestock rule, although the Organic Trade Association said reopening the comment period was not necessary.

According to a notice of intent to publish the rule on the comment period in the Federal Register today, the comment period will be reopened for 60 days on the April 28, 2015, proposed rule to amend the origin of livestock requirements for dairy animals under the USDA organic regulations.

“We are reopening the proposed rule’s comment period for 60 days to give all interested parties an additional opportunity to comment on the proposed rule,” USDA said in the notice.

“Comments previously submitted need not be resubmitted, as they are already incorporated into the public record and will be fully considered in any future final rule.”

“The proposed rule would add requirements about transitioning dairy animals to organic production,” USDA said in the notice. “Please refer to the proposed rule for information about AMS’ proposed changes, rationale, and analysis, including estimated costs and benefits.”

OTA noted in a statement that “Both the organic sector and Congress have been crystal clear that USDA needs to act to address the inconsistency in enforcement of the organic standards and issue a final rule.”

“Congress has demonstrated strong bipartisan support and set the clock for implementation of the Origin of Livestock rule,” OTA said. “Both the House and Senate Agriculture spending packages for 2020 require USDA to issue a final rule on the Origin of Livestock within 180 days of the final spending bill being signed into law.”

Congress has not, however, completed action on agriculture appropriations for 2020.

OTA continued, “The organic industry has been asking for this critical clarification since 2010. This additional comment period will only reinforce the 1,500 comments already submitted during the 2015 comment period on the proposed rule. There should be no doubt that the industry has reached consensus on this policy to level the process for organic dairy farmers.”

“Industry and Congress are in lockstep,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of the OTA. “They have been definitive that the policy needs to be clarified and it needs to happen expeditiously. The comment period doesn’t change that.”