Senator Leahy Applauds Change In Organic Origin Of Livestock Rule

(TUESDAY, March 29, 2022) – U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Tuesday thanked USDA for making a key change in the rules for organic livestock, long requested by small dairy producers.

Leahy said:  “For far too long, large producers have been able to skirt the rules regarding organic livestock, ‘transitioning’ livestock to organic every year after raising them conventionally.  This rule will end that practice and help level the playing field between large and small organic producers.”

When a farm converts from conventional to organic production, it is allowed to transition its existing livestock to organic, adopting organic practices for the care and feeding of those animals.  Implicit in the rules was the assumption that subsequent generations of livestock would be raised organic, not transitioned.  But there was a loophole, of which some farmers have taken advantage.

Provisions of the new rule include:

  • A farm shifting to organic production or a new organic farm to transition animals from conventional to organic just once.
  • Organic dairies will not be allowed to purchase transitioned animals.
  • From the last third of gestation, animals on organic dairies must be managed as organic.
  • Variances may be requested by small farms in specific circumstances.

“I thank USDA for making this change,” Leahy said.  “We must remain vigilant in protecting organic standards.  This will help ensure that large producers are not abusing a loophole to give themselves an unfair advantage."

As part of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2022 passed by Congress and signed into law earlier this month, Leahy, as chair of the Appropriations Committee, included language which encourages USDA to provide the National Organics Program with all the necessary resources for enforcement of the organics standards, including pasture rules for livestock.

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