Stakeholders now have until July 13 to submit comments on the USDA’s proposed rule specifying production practices for livestock qualifying for “certified organic” food labels. The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) published the proposed rule on April 13, 2016, with a deadline for comments on June 13.
According to an article from The Hill, leaders of the Senate and House Agriculture committees, including committee chairs Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Rep. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) and ranking members Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), requested the extension citing complexity of the issue. In their letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the Congressional leaders noted concerns over reduced access to organic products, increased organic food costs for consumers, increased exposure to disease and mortality for organic poultry and increased risk of food-borne illness.
The proposed rule sets new standards for organic livestock production, including housing requirements to provide enough space for the animals to lie down, stand up and fully stretch their limbs without touching other animals and allowing animals to express normal patterns of behavior. Animals also would need unencumbered access to the outdoors at all times unless the animals need to be confined to protect them from predators. Sick, injured, weak, disabled, blind and lame animals would have to be medically treated or euthanized.
In the proposal, AMS estimates the rule would cost organic farmers between $9.5 million and $24.1 million per year over the next 13 years, while public benefits would range from $14.7 million to $62.6 million per year.