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Judge tells USDA to move quickly on organic livestock rule

Nearly two-and-a-half years ago, the Organic Trade Association sued the Trump administration for delaying implementation of the rule and then withdrawing it on March 13, 2018.

The USDA admitted to flaws in the analysis it used to kill a regulation setting animal welfare standards for organic farms, and now it faces a September 8 deadline to publish a final rule with the updated cost-benefit analysis. “After these many efforts, the department should move quickly,” wrote U.S. district judge Rosemary Collyer granting voluntary remand to the USDA.

Nearly two-and-a-half years ago, the Organic Trade Association sued the Trump administration for delaying implementation of the rule and then withdrawing it on March 13, 2018. The regulation, more than a decade in the making, was issued in the final days of the Obama administration.

READ MORE: Mother Nature rules. So why not follow her lead?

“We are fully prepared for the court to render a verdict when the record is complete in 180 days,” said the OTA, criticizing the “USDA’s willingness to drag out the rule-making process and thwart the will of the organic industry.” The USDA said it could not comment on pending litigation.

Collyer set the 180-day deadline for USDA to overhaul its economic analysis in a court order issued last week. When it proposed the livestock rule, the USDA said it “ensures that all organic animals live in pasture-based systems utilizing production practices that support their well-being and natural behavior.” The rule effectively would end the practice of confining egg-laying hens in small battery cages and require group housing of hogs, measures that are opposed by the conventional livestock industry. When it decided to kill the regulation, the USDA said it lacked the statutory authority to implement it.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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