Collins, Leahy Urge USDA to Finalize Rule Critical to Small Organic Dairy Producers Throughout New England

. . . . The Senators secured language in the FY2020 appropriations package directing the USDA to complete the National Organic Program ‘Origin of Livestock’ Rule by June 18, 2020

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) sent a letter urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to finalize the National Organic Program ‘Origin of Livestock’ Rule, which would close a loophole that has put small organic dairy producers at a disadvantage and discredited the organic label.

Senators Collins and Leahy worked to secure language in the fiscal year (FY) 2020 Agriculture Appropriations package directing the USDA to complete the National Organic Program ‘Origin of Livestock’ Rule by June 18, 2020.  The USDA has yet to finalize this rule.

“The organic dairy industry is an important economic engine in both Maine and Vermont.  Numerous family farms supply organic milk to co-ops and businesses that offer retail products at thousands of locations across the country, which has been especially critical throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote the Senators.  “Unfortunately, there is currently a loophole which allows for the continuous cycling of cows in and out of organic management, which disadvantages smaller producers and harms the integrity of the organic label.  The USDA’s proposed Origin Livestock Rule would fix this loophole.”

Many organic dairy farmers in Maine and Vermont have expressed concern about the lack of uniform enforcement regarding the transition of livestock from conventional to organic production. USDA first proposed the Origin of Organic Livestock rule to address this concern in 2015, but the rule was never finalized. The regulation requires that milk sold as organic must come from animals that have been under continuous organic management practices for at least one year.  Transitioning cows in and out of organic production is strictly prohibited, but many larger operations are doing this with no penalty.  This creates an unfair advantage for farms who are exploiting this loophole, as farmers who raise their calves according to the organic standard from birth spend an estimated $600 to $1,000 more per calf than farmers who raise calves conventionally and transition them to organic at one year of age.

Click HERE to read the letter.