WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) joined her fellow House Organic Caucus co-chairs Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Rep Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) in urging USDA to issue a final rule on the Origin of Livestock standards, a critical regulation for thousands of organic dairy farmers around the country.
Some organic certifiers are currently allowing dairy animals to be continuously transitioned in and out of organic production, while other certifiers correctly enforce a one-time transition, according to a Dec. 3 news release from Pingree’s office.
The proposed rule, developed under the Obama administration in 2015, would clarify that continuous transition of non-organic livestock into organic production is prohibited and would level the playing field for organic dairy farmers, thus protecting the integrity of the organic label. The public comment period on the reopened proposed rule ended on December 2, 2019 at midnight.
“Due to the OIG’s findings of the misapplication of the organic regulations, USDA issued the 2015 proposed rule on Origin of Livestock to clarify the regulations to ensure the regulations were being consistently and correctly applied. USDA received more than 1,500 comments during the public comment period and over 99% of the comments received were in support of the proposed regulations that clarified and strengthened the requirements surrounding the allowance of a one-time transition. Despite the overwhelming support by the organic dairy industry and stakeholders, a final rule was not published,” said the Organic Caucus co-chairs in the letter. “A handful of producers have exploited the lack of clarity in the regulations causing direct economic harm to the majority of the nation’s organic dairy farmers that adhere to the intent of the organic regulations…A final rule [must] be issued and become effective as soon as possible without delay.”
In response to Secretary of Agriculture Perdue’s claims of industry division on the origin of livestock rulemaking, Congresswoman Pingree has repeatedly pushed USDA to provide information about any opposition to the Obama-era rule. In a House Appropriations Committee hearing last April, she questioned the Secretary on the lack of a consistent origin of organic livestock standard and why the USDA has not finalized the origin of livestock ruling. Pingree then sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in May, asking him to finalize the origin of livestock rulemaking.
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Pingree secured the inclusion of language directing the USDA to finalize the origin of organic livestock ruling in the FY2020 Agriculture Appropriations Bill that the House passed in June. In July, she questioned USDA’s Marketing and Regulatory Programs Undersecretary Greg Ibach on the National Organic Program and the delay in the origin of livestock rulemaking.