The Agriculture Department enacted more stringent animal welfare rules for organic livestock producers two days prior to President Obama leaving office.
USDA Agriculture Marketing Service’s Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices include the stipulation that livestock grown for organic marketing labels have enough space to fully stretch their limbs, turn around, lie down and stand up. Poultry should be able to spread their wings and beaks cannot be removed. Tail docking for cattle can no longer be performed.
The rules go into effect on March 2018.
To be in compliance the USDA estimates it will cost organic producers $31 million. Organic poultry farms have until 2020 to update existing facilities.
Animal rights activists celebrated the rule updates. “The rule is a game-changer for the $40-billion organic market, whose consumers often believe that organic farm animals are raised with strong animal welfare standards,” says Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States.
Agriculture industry groups and legislators were not as pleased with the announcement.
“The Obama Administration has bowed to the whims and demands of animal activists rather than talking to the industry as a whole to see what is best for the program and for consumers. This rule sends a clear signal that an activist agenda is more important to the outgoing,” says Tracy Brunner, National Cattlemen's Beef Association president.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) was disappointed to see the last minute regulations be pushed through saying “the animal welfare standards go beyond the scope of the National Organic Program.”
Conaway is optimistic the Trump Administration will withdraw the rule and he will work with fellow Congress members to remove some of the requirements.