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USDA proposes to terminate organic standards that increase animal welfare

WASHINGTON, DC (Dec. 15, 2017)—The USDA announced its intent to withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule (“organics rule”) from the national organic program. This rule, which has been under consideration for more than ten years, was approved as a final rulemaking action by the executive branch at the beginning of 2017 with overwhelming support from organic livestock producers and consumers alike.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States and executive vice president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said: “Today’s announcement is a subversion of comprehensive federal animal welfare standards approved by the USDA, and it will prove crippling to family farmers all across the nation who treat their animals well and want to be able to market their products under an authentic ‘organic’ label. We are appalled by this action, and plan to mount a major effort to reverse a decision that will contribute to hollowing out rural communities and that will allow factory farmers to trick the public and sell their products at a premium under a deficient organic label.”

The new Administration has delayed the rule’s implementation three times since it was adopted in January prior to today’s announcement that the USDA intends to kill off the program in its entirety. Family farmers have been advocating for the elements in the final rulemaking approved earlier this year for two decades. These farmers opt in to the program, and no one forces them to participate in the organic program.

In 1990, Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act to “assure consumers that organically produced products meet a consistent standard.” The statute directed the USDA to establish national standards for products using the “organic” label, and it called on the National Organic Standards Board to recommend requirements “for the care of livestock.” The NOSB unanimously favored the rule that the USDA has now pulled. Despite the USDA’s newly claimed confusion over its statutory authority to establish livestock standards, the Act has long been interpreted to include animal welfare considerations, and the 2017 organics rule is consistent with congressional intent.

This rule would allow farmers who use more humane and sustainable practices to get a return on their investment by marketing their products to consumers willing to pay a bit more to eat safer, more humanely produced animal products. “Farmers and consumers opt into this program, and the USDA has a simple role: develop fair, science-based standards,” added Pacelle. “Instead, the agency has bowed to Big Ag and scuttled a program that every key stakeholder in the organic space wanted. This is a political manifestation of the swamp at work.”

The organics industry—including animal products and fruits and vegetables—generates nearly $50 billion in sales annually and is a key component of the agricultural economy.

Starting this Monday, December 18, the public will have 30 days to submit their feedback on the withdrawal of the rules. Instructions for submitting comments can be found at: https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2017-27316.pdf.

Media Contact: Anna West: awest@humanesociety.org; 240-751-2669

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The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a social welfare organization incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and formed in 2004 as a separate lobbying affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States. The HSLF works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues, and to support humane candidates for office. Visit us on all our channels: on the web at hslf.org, on our blog at animalsandpolitics.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/humanelegislation and on Twitter at twitter.com/HSLegFund.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization, rated the most effective by its peers. Since 1954, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. We rescue and care for tens of thousands of animals each year, but our primary mission is to prevent cruelty before it occurs. We're there for all animals, across America and around the world. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty -- on the Web at humanesociety.org. Subscribe to the blog, A Humane Nation. Join The HSUS on Facebook. Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your Apple or Android device by searching for our “Humane TV” app.