Farmers, businesses, certifiers and consumers lock arms in lawsuit to defend organicOrganic Trade Association sues USDA over failure to advance organic livestock standards
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 13, 2017) – Taking action to defend the organic seal and organic standards, the Organic Trade Association is filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture over its failure to put into effect new organic livestock standards.
“We are standing up on behalf of the entire organic sector to protect organic integrity, advance animal welfare, and demand the government keep up with the industry and the consumer in setting organic standards,” said Laura Batcha, Executive Director and CEO of the Organic Trade Association.
The suit alleges the U.S. Department of Agriculture violated the Organic Foods Production Act, and unlawfully delayed the effective date of the final livestock standards that were developed by industry and in accordance with the processes established by Congress, and with abusing the agency’s discretion by ignoring the overwhelming public record established in support of these organic standards. The trade association further contends that the Trump Administration’s Regulatory freeze order issued to federal agencies on Jan. 20, 2017, should not apply to organic standards because they are voluntary and are required only of those farms and businesses that opt in to be certified organic.
Supporting the Organic Trade Association in the suit, as groups harmed by this protracted government inaction, are organizations representing organic livestock farmers, organic certification agencies, and organic retailers and consumers.
Batcha said the Organic Trade Association’s duty to protect the U.S. organic sector and enable it to advance, to uphold the integrity of the organic seal and to honor the consumer trust in that seal compelled the association – on behalf of the organic industry -- to take the legal action against the Administration.
“The organic industry takes very seriously its contract with the consumer and will not stand aside while the government holds back the meaningful and transparent choice of organic foods that deliver what the consumer wants,” said Batcha. “The government’s failure to move ahead with this fully-vetted regulation calls into question the entire process by which organic regulations are set – a process that Congress created, the industry has worked within, and consumers trust.”
“The viability of the organic market rests on consumer trust in the USDA Organic seal, and trust that the organic seal represents a meaningful differentiation from other agricultural practices,” said Batcha, who noted that the Board of the Organic Trade Association voted unanimously to initiate the lawsuit.
What the organic livestock standard says
The Organic Livestock and Poultry Production rule, commonly referred to as the Organic Animal Welfare Rule, is the result of 14 years of public and transparent work within the process established by Congress, and reflects deep engagement and input by organic stakeholders during multiple administrations, both Republican and Democrat.
It addresses four broad areas of organic livestock and poultry practices, including living conditions, animal healthcare, transport, and slaughter. The OLPP represents a refinement and clarification of a series of organic animal welfare recommendations incorporated into the Organic Foods Production Act of 2002, which established the federal regulations overseeing the U.S. organic sector.
· Establishes minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for poultry,