NataBaiborodina /

USDA Withdraws Policy on Welfare of Certified Organic Poultry and Livestock

The Obama-era proposal would have protected organic farm animals’ well-being
NataBaiborodina /

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the decision to withdraw a proposed rule that would have increased federal regulation of livestock and poultry for “certified organic” producers and handlers. The Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) proposal would have gone into effect on May 13, 2018, but was rejected after two rounds of public comment and what the USDA described as “careful review.”

Under OLPP, which was finalized under the Obama administration in 2016, organic producers would have been required to provide animals with daily access to outdoor areas with vegetation and soil and allow an ample amount of indoor space for broilers and layers. Forced molting — in which poultry birds are starved for one to two weeks in order to increase egg production — would also have been prohibited, and limits would have been established for indoor confinement, use of artificial light, and the amount of ammonia used inside.

The decision also avoids placing new regulations on conditions for transporting organic livestock and poultry to sale or slaughter or on physical alterations, like de-beaking chickens or docking cows’ tails.

The USDA noted “significant policy and legal issues” that were identified after the policy was published in January 2017. The USDA says the rule exceeds its statutory authority and that changes to the existing regulations could have a negative effect on voluntary participation in the National Organic Program, including real costs for producers and consumers.

“The existing robust organic livestock and poultry regulations are effective,” USDA marketing and regulatory program undersecretary Greg Ibach said in a release. “The organic industry’s continued growth domestically and globally shows that consumers trust the current approach that balances consumer expectations and the needs of organic producers and handlers.”

Many are unhappy about the move and are wondering why the Trump administration has chosen to go against restrictions that would ensure humane treatment.

“Does this administration actually know how to do things? They are quite good at rolling back positive legislation. Shameful,” @lkclaus said on Twitter.

“Right when you think Trump can’t get any worse, he goes and does something like this. God forbid we treat living creatures with any basic level of compassion,” @Glenn72196317 wrote.

And some are even thinking about revamping their diets.

“Makes me want to go back to being a #vegan even more now. #plantbased #ecoforward,” @StaceyLScott8 declared.

According to The Hill, the Organic Trade Association plans to amend a complaint against the USDA from September regarding the department’s failure to put the proposed rule into effect.

“The USDA’s unconscionable action does not deter us,” the group’s CEO and executive director, Laura Batcha, said in a release. “We will continue our fight in the court. USDA has requested that this case be dismissed; now they have announced they are withdrawing the rule. But this issue will not go away. This latest action by USDA will only invigorate and solidify more support for this regulation.”

Regulations regarding animal welfare and organic labeling have long been a source of debate. Some companies have responded with initiatives to improve transparency in ingredient sourcing — including McDonald’s, which recently created a new policy that would require suppliers to slaughter their chickens more humanely. For more McDonald’s trivia, here are 11 things you didn’t know about the fast food brand.