Dairy Farmer Comments Needed – Origin of Livestock Rule

Since 2013, the organic community has been working to fix a loophole in the Origin of Livestock rule for organic cow dairies. The USDA National Organic Program’s failure to strengthen the standards for organic livestock has allowed large-scale organic dairies to continuously transition animals into organic, undermining those organic farms that comply with the intent of the organic label.

In 2015, the NOP published a proposed rule to clarify that, after completion of a one-time transition from a conventional dairy farm, all new dairy animals milked on an organic dairy farm would need to be managed organically from the last third of gestation. The 2015 proposed rule garnered strong public support from the entire organic community but has never been finalized.

Now, after years of advocacy by the organic community, the NOP has released a revised proposed rule for public comment. They need to hear from organic dairy farmers! Here are some points you can include in your comment.


1. Whether the final rule should prohibit organic dairy operations from acquiring transitioned animals to expand or replace animals to produce organic milk.

OFA supports the final rule prohibiting organic dairy operations from acquiring transitioned animals. A transitioned animal should only be considered organic on the farm it was transitioned on.

2. Whether the final rule should use the term “operation” to describe the regulated entity [instead of “producer”.]

OFA supports using the term “operation” to describe the regulated entity, with the addition of linking the transition of animals to a “responsibly connected person(s).”  In accordance with the “responsibly connected person” approach, any person who is a partner, officer, director, holder, manager, or owner of 10 percent or more of the voting stock of an applicant or a recipient of certification would be allowed a one-time herd transition exemption. Any person with a significant financial or managerial stake in a dairy operation would utilize their one-time eligibility once a transition occurs at that operation.

THE NOP IS ALSO ASKING FOR COMMENTS ON SEVERAL ADDITIONAL ISSUES.  You can add these to your comment if you have thoughts to share:

1. IMPLEMENTATION TIMEFRAME: The NOP had proposed that all requirements be implemented upon the effective date of a final rule, with an exception for any transition that was already approved by a certifying agent. They request comments about whether an implementation timeframe is necessary for organic dairies to comply and what that timeframe should be.

OFA supports an immediate effective date for the final rule. For those operations who have not yet entered the certification process, they should be able to plan for their transition with their certifier using the one-time transition allowance. For those operations that are in the process of getting certified on the final rule’s effective date, they should complete the one-time transition approved by their certifier within that first year.

2. ECONOMIC IMPACT: The NOP requests feedback related to the costs and benefits of this proposed rule.

This is where you can provide examples to USDA to make the case that failure to close this loophole is harming organic farms. Any examples you can provide could be helpful. Does your operation already meet the requirements laid out in this proposed rule? Have years of delay in closing this loophole caused economic harm for your operation? Have you had trouble selling organic animals, or not been able to get an adequate price, because of competition from transitioned animals offered for sale to organic operations?


To read the revisions to the proposed rule and SUBMIT A COMMENT, GO HERE.

  • You can type your comment directly in the text box on the regulations.gov site or attach a word or pdf file.
  • Mention “Docket No. AMS-NOP-11-0009-2321” in your letter.
  • You can cover as many of the questions USDA posed for public comment as you want, but you don’t have to comment on all of them.
  • Mention that you are an organic dairy farmer and give any relevant examples about how failure to close this loophole has impacted your operation.
  • Questions? Contact Patty Lovera at patty@organicfarmersassociation.org