Consumer groups are suing the Trump administration over its decision to withdraw and Obama-era rule that set new standards for how animals must be treated if their meat is going to be sold as “certified organic.”
The Center for Food Safety (CFS) and three other groups filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia on Thursday.
They argue that the Department of Agriculture (USDA) wrongly claimed it lacked the authority to regulate practices such as animal space and preventative health care for livestock under the organic label and gave an arbitrary rationale for withdrawing the rule.
The CFS said the USDA claimed the regulation would be costly, despite its own economic analysis finding only minor costs, exceeding its authority under the Organic Foods Production Act in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.
“The Trump administration’s outrageous and unlawful decision is an existential threat to the future of Organic as a meaningful label that Americans can rely on," said George Kimbrell, the CFS’s legal director and counsel in the case, in a statement.
“The hardworking American families who spend the extra money to buy organic food do not deserve to be cheated by the President’s endorsement of ‘fake’ organic.”
The rule, which set new standards for the raising, transporting and slaughtering of organic livestock, was originally set to take effect in March 20, 2017. The Trump administration delayed it three times and finally withdrew it in December.
Poultry, for example, would have had to be housed in spaces that were big enough for the birds to move freely, stretch their wings and engage in natural behaviors, while livestock would have had to have access to an outdoor space year round.