Overnight Regulation: Feds propose new standards for animals certified as 'organic'

Welcome to Overnight Regulation, your daily rundown of news from the federal agencies, Capitol Hill and beyond. It's Thursday evening here in Washington and we love that Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill MORE (R-Iowa) gave Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOn The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill Trump's border funding comes back from the dead MORE, the committee's top Democrat, a birthday cake at today's meeting.  http://bit.ly/1RSDXDV

Here's the latest. 

 

THE BIG STORY

The Obama administration proposed new requirements Thursday for how animals are to be treated when their meat is sold with the certified organic label.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's new rule clarifies how organic producers and handlers must treat livestock and poultry throughout the animals' lives, including when they are transported and slaughtered.

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The rules set indoor and outdoor living space requirements. Barns, pens, coops and other shelters, for example, have to be big enough for the animals to lie down, stand up and fully stretch their limbs without touching other animals or the sides of the shelter. They must also be designed to allow the animals to express normal patterns of behavior.

Under the USDA's proposal, organic livestock would also receive "unencumbered" access to the outdoors at all times unless the animals need to be confined to protect them from predators.

"As part of the definition of the outdoors, livestock must have access to the soil in a manner that maintains or improves the natural resources of the farm and does not degrade soil or water quality," the agency said in its rulemaking.

Sick, injured, weak, disabled, blind and lame animals would have to be medically treated or euthanized.

The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) said the proposed regulations are "desperately needed."

"The lack of specific requirements for animal welfare has resulted in great variability in the level of animal care provided by organic producers," Dena Jones, the AWI's farm animal policy director, said in a statement. "Some producers raise animals on pasture with high welfare, while others raise animals in a manner similar to conventional, intensive agriculture. In some instances organically raised animals are never even given the opportunity to go outdoors."

The AWI urged the agency to quickly finalize the rule.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (ASPCA) called the agency move "historic."

"The proposed rule is the first, comprehensive set of regulations governing on-farm treatment of animals ever proposed by the federal government," Suzanne McMillan, an ASPCA spokeswoman said in a statement. "It promises to correct the wide disparity between consumer expectation of animal welfare under the organic label and the reality of what the organic standard requires."

The public will have 60 days to submit comments on the agency's proposal once the rule is published in the Federal Register. http://bit.ly/1ULye8E

 

TOMORROW'S REGS TODAY

The Obama administration will publish 189 new regulations, proposed rules, notices and other administrative actions in Friday's edition of the Federal Register.

--The Department of Transportation (DOT) will propose new pipeline safety regulations.

The rules from the Transportation Department's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) would affect onshore gas pipelines.

The public has 60 days to comment. http://bit.ly/1oGaiFG

--The Obama administration will consider new guidelines under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) will propose new guidance for "certain contracts that provide for rights and obligations with respect to electric power and natural gas."

The public has 30 days to comment. http://bit.ly/1RSqls6

--The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will allow federal employees to take family leave to care for their same-sex spouses.

The OPM is updating its regulations under the Family and Medical Leave Act to recognize same-sex married couples.

"The new definition permits federal employees with same-sex spouses to use [Family and Medical Leave Act] in the same manner as federal employees with opposite-sex spouses," the agency writes.

The changes go into effect in 30 days. http://bit.ly/1ST5tnb

 

NEWS RIGHT NOW

Trump Vodka creates kosher scandal in Israel. http://bit.ly/1UL0fwY

Dem bill cracks down on payday lenders. http://bit.ly/1q9V7FO

Opposition mounts to NSA's data-sharing plans. http://bit.ly/1qwwbc0

McConnell knocks Obama over Supreme Court. http://bit.ly/22g54h7

Group slams Grassley over Supreme Court issue. http://bit.ly/1VBnzfM

Treasury: Judge's MetLife decision is wrong. http://bit.ly/1ULkoTH

EPA chief: Methane regs will allow 'sustainable' fossil fuel use. http://bit.ly/22g5pAa

How weak badge security puts federal facilities at risk – The Washington Post http://wapo.st/1MgWjS5

Pennsylvania bans bias against transgender people – Reuters http://reut.rs/1qwDyQP

DEA to decide within months whether to change federal status of marijuana – The Washington Times http://bit.ly/1Xk3auF

 

BY THE NUMBERS 

$9.5 to 24.1 million: How much USDA estimates it's new rule will cost organic farmers annually over the next 13 years. 

$14.7 to $62.6 million: The estimated public benefits of the rule. 

http://bit.ly/1ULye8E

 

TWEET OF THE DAY 

"Thanks @POTUS. I met w/ Judge Garland because my responsibility to people of #IL is more important than partisanship," Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkEx-GOP Sen. Kirk registers to lobby The global reality behind 'local' problems Dems vow swift action on gun reform next year MORE (R-Ill.) tweeted with a picture of the thank you note he received from President Obama for meeting with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. http://bit.ly/1MifomS

 

We'll work to stay on top of these and other stories throughout the week, so check The Hill's Regulation page (http://thehill.com/regulation) early and often for the latest. And send any comments, complaints or regulatory news tips our way, tdevaney@thehill.com or lwheeler@thehill.com. And follow us at @timdevaney and @wheelerlydia.

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