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The White House signed off on final rules this week on treatment of animals whose meat will be sold as “certified organic.”
The White House Office of Management and Budget completed its review of the organic livestock and poultry practices Wednesday, giving the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service the green light to release the final rules.
Under the rules, proposed in April, livestock and poultry have to live in environments where they can exhibit natural behaviors in order to qualify for the organic label.
Barns, pens, coops and other shelters, for example, would 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.
Under the USDA’s proposal, organic livestock would also have to have “unencumbered” access to the outdoors at all times unless the animals need to be confined to protect them from predators.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was pleased to see the rules on the cusp of being completed.
“The rule specifies minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements and prohibit certain physical alterations among many other improvements,” Deborah Press, ASPCA’s director of regulatory affairs and government relations, said in a statement.
“It will correct the wide disparity between consumers’ expectations regarding the quality of animal welfare under the organic label and the reality of what USDA currently requires.”
Not all groups, however, support the new requirements.
The National Pork Producers Council asked the USDA to withdraw the rules after they were proposed.
The group argues it will be too costly to buy additional land and retrofit facilities to meet the new requirements.
“Current organic producers have understandably designed and even located their enterprises around existing organic standards,” the group said in its comments to the USDA.
“AMS assumptions that organic producers will readily be able to acquire additional land – and that such land will not be subject to environmental regulations precluding its use for livestock – are not substantiated and do not seem to account for geographic variability in organic production sites.”
The rules could be the last agricultural regulations to come from the Obama administration if the USDA is able to get them published in the Federal Register before Friday.
Still, they face the threat of being repealed by either the incoming Donald rump administration or Congress.