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Sunday, April 8, 2018

USDA Ignored Public Support of Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule

By Anna Johnson, annaj@cfra.org, Center for Rural Affairs

The Center for Rural Affairs stands for rural communities, and we, too, believe that an essential foundation for vital rural communities consists of a healthy economy and diverse farming models.
Many of the policies we support – organic agriculture, Value-Added Producer Grants, rural microloans – we chose to fight for because they make space for farmers and ranchers to access new or alternative income streams.
We are concerned that some of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recent actions directly undermine this vision, by the removal of several rules.
Last month, USDA decided to roll back the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule. This rule was meant to strengthen animal welfare standards for the organic program and had the overwhelming support of organic farmers and ranchers and other stakeholders in the organic industry. Along with 72 other organizations, we signed a letter to USDA stating our support for the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices. Although a final rule was issued in 2017, USDA has reversed its decision, ignored public support, and withdraw the rule, effective May 13, 2018.
We see an unfortunate similarity with USDA’s decision last year to delay, and finally, cancel, the Farmer Fair Practices Rules, also known as GIPSA rules. These would have brought greater fairness to contract poultry and livestock production and would have helped level the playing field for these producers nationwide.
Both of these rules would have made more space in agriculture for farmers and ranchers to pursue diverse livestock and poultry production practices. Unfortunately, USDA does not share this vision and chose to roll back these provisions.
While such losses can be discouraging, we refuse to give up the fight for strong, rural communities. Visit cfra.org to learn how you can help.

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