The USDA Wants to Hear From You About the New Organic Animal Welfare Rule

Pete and Gerry's Organic Eggs

The Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Final Rule, designed to make improvements to organic animal welfare standards (that won last-minute approval from the Obama administration in January) has been delayed several times by Trump's USDA, most recently in May.

The rule is based on formal recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board, the 15-member public advisory group to the USDA's National Organic Program, comprised of organic producers, environmentalists and consumer advocates.

According to the USDA, the rule:

  • Requires that producers provide animals with daily access to the outdoors and that outdoor areas include vegetation and/or soil. Additionally, exit doors must be distributed to ensure animals have ready access to the outdoors. It does not allow enclosed porches to be considered outdoors or to meet the requirement for outdoor access;
  • Specifies the amount of space required indoors for chicken broilers and layers, prohibits forced molting, restricts the use of artificial light, limits the amount of ammonia in the air indoors and requires perching space for laying chickens indoors;
  • Describes when producers can confine animals indoors temporarily and codifies flexibility for producers to confine animals when their health, safety or well-being could be jeopardized;
  • Adds humane handling requirements for transporting livestock and poultry to sale or slaughter, and clarifies humane slaughter requirements;
  • Prohibits several kinds of physical alteration, like de-beaking chickens or docking cows' tails; and
  • Provides a phased implementation plan, allowing producers reasonable time to implement the rule.

The effective date of the rule is being delayed for six months to November 14, 2017, "to allow time for further consideration," according to the USDA, and the agency is asking the public to comment by June 9, 2017 on whether it should let the rule become effective in November, delay it further, suspend it indefinitely or withdraw it altogether. Now is the time to make your feelings known and your voice heard. Go to the USDA's site and add your comment before the deadline.