OFA urges USDA to close dairy loopholes

Update from Mark Rokala, Policy Director

Sixty-two organizations joined the Organic Farmers Association asking that USDA prioritize implementation of an Origin of Livestock Final Rule in 2019 to restore stability to the dairy industry.  A Rule is the legal document that guides USDA’s day-to-day operations of its programs.

Our members told National Organic Program (NOP) staff during its March Fly-In that organic dairy farms need the loopholes fixed immediately to provide consistent enforcement and fair competition.

NOP acknowledges that organic dairy farms are experiencing significant duress.

But, the NOP believes the dairy industry has changed significantly since the Origin of Livestock Rule was proposed in 2015.  NOP is saying they need to complete another economic analysis to determine if that rule fixes the industry problems. That process could take up to two-years. OFA responded that its members cannot afford a fix that takes that long to implement.

In OFA’s follow up letter, the we highlighted the organic dairy crisis resulting from USDA’s inconsistent implementation of the current Rule.  The organization members also point out that USDA has enough comments to implement a final rule.

The current Administration has focused on reducing regulations—but for organic farmers—we are asking for these voluntary regulations.  Federal agencies must eliminate two prior rules or regulations for every new rule released. USDA is still working to determine how this Executive Order will impact implementation of the farm bill, much less the needed Origin of Livestock changes.

Finally, we are working with Congress to insert bill language in the Appropriation’s Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies telling USDA to implement the Final Rule in 2019.

Requested Bill Language: Not later than 180 days after enactment of this section, the Secretary of Agriculture shall issue a final rule based on the proposed rule entitled “National Organic Program; Origin of Livestock,” published in the Federal Register on April 28, 2015 (80 Fed. Reg. 23455). The final rule shall incorporate public comments submitted in response to the proposed rule.