April 2022 Policy Update

April 2022

By Patty Lovera, Policy Director

Good news! After years of work from the organic community, the USDA finally released the Origin of Livestock final rule, closing loopholes that will level the playing field for organic dairy farms. And Congress continued to slowly move towards the next Farm Bill while the National Organic Standards Board gets ready for its spring meeting.

A WIN for Organic Integrity!

Organic Farmers Association has been pushing the USDA for a strong final Origin of Livestock Rule since we were created in 2016.  This issue has been at the top of our farmer-identified priority list every year. On March 29, USDA finally released the final rule!

The new final rule:

  • Specifies that a dairy livestock operation transitioning to organic, or starting a new organic farm, is allowed to transition non-organic animals ONCE.
  • Prohibits organic dairies from sourcing any transitioned animals. Once a dairy is certified organic, any new animals must have been born as certified organic (managed as organic from the last third of gestation).

This win would not have been possible without the support and action from so many organic farmers, organic farm organizations, and organic consumers who signed on to letters to Congress and USDA asking for support for organic dairy farmers with clear Origin of Livestock Standards.

Now that we have a final Origin of Livestock rule that clarifies the standards for organic dairy transition and growth, we will need to make sure that the USDA’s National Organic Program is requiring organic certification agencies to enforce this rule uniformly.

Setting Organic Priorities for the Next Farm Bill

The current Farm Bill expires in 2023, and Congress has started to take the first steps in the process of developing the new version. The House Agriculture Committee has kicked off a series of hearings to examine how USDA programs are working, including a hearing in late March in the subcommittee that covers organic issues. The hearing covered a range of topics, including the release of the final rule on Origin of Livestock and ways to streamline application to USDA conservation programs.

Delayed Organic Regulations

Now that the Origin of Livestock final rule has finally been released, we still need USDA action on several other critical issues. The Office of Management and Budget, a division of the White House that signs off on federal regulations, continues to review the Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards rule. After the OMB finishes their review, the USDA will have to make any changes required by the OMB and can then release the OLPS proposed rule for public comment.

In the middle of the month, the National Organic Program held a public meeting and comment period to get input on the long list of regulations and guidance on the agency’s to-do list. OFA told NOP to prioritize the Strengthening Organic Enforcement final rule, the Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards, prohibiting hydroponic operations from being certified organic, clarifying the rules for transitioning greenhouse facilities, finalizing guidance to protect native ecosystems and other issues. You can read OFA’s comments here.

Spring Meeting of the National Organic Standards Board

The spring meeting of the National Organic Standards Board will be held during the week of April 25th. It will be a virtual meeting that can be watched online.

Some of the big topics on the board’s meeting agenda include:

  • Potential ways to provide NOSB members with technical help and research assistance.
  • Discussion of how to increase traceability in complicated organic supply chains (for bulk commodities like grain) to combat fraud.
  • Defining new types of genetic engineering that should be prohibited in organic production.
  • Possible restrictions on highly soluble forms of nitrogen.
  • A list of “sunset” materials that are up for their 5-year review to be allowed in organic production.

You can read the Board’s proposed recommendations and discussion documents here.  For information on watching the meeting on Zoom, go to the USDA’s page for this meeting. The public comment sessions for this meeting will be held on the afternoon of Tuesday April 19 and the afternoon of Thursday April 21.  You can read OFA’s comments to the Board here.