USDA Issues Proposed Rule to Amend Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices, Including Poultry Living Conditions; Invites Comments

Thursday, April 7, 2016 - 11:00am
Release No.: 068-16
WASHINGTON, April 7, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) today announced that the agency will propose amending the organic livestock and poultry production requirements, in order to ensure consistent application of the USDA organic regulations for organic livestock and poultry operations and maintain confidence in organically labeled products.  The proposed changes are based on recommendations by the National Organic Standards Board and incorporate years of public comment and suggestions by stakeholders.
“The demand for organic agriculture continues to grow each year and these proposed changes will build on USDA’s efforts to support organic producers,” said AMS Administrator Elanor Starmer.  “By strengthening standards for organic livestock and poultry, we are ensuring that we meet consumer expectations and maintain the integrity of the organic seal to support the sector’s continued growth. This proposal sets clear standards for organic animals, providing clarity to organic operations and certifying agents, and establishing a level playing field for all producers.” USDA Proposes Some New Standards for Organic Livestock Production
The proposal is designed to provide clear guidance for organic producers and handlers to provide for their animal’s welfare. Major provisions include:
  • Clarifying how producers and handlers must treat livestock and poultry to ensure their health and wellbeing throughout life, including transport and slaughter.  
  • Specifying which physical alterations are allowed and prohibited in organic livestock and poultry production.  
  • Establishing minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for poultry.   
These proposals would add specificity to the animal production and handling aspects of organic production, ensuring consistency and consumer transparency, bolstering consumer confidence and strengthening the integrity and marketing potential of the USDA organic seal.  
Actuality: Why USDA Is Proposing New Organic Livestock Standards
The total retail market for organic products is now valued at more than $39 billion in the United States.  AMS announced on Monday that from 2014 to 2015, the sector grew by 12 percent. USDA has strengthened programs that support organic operations over the past seven years, helping to make organic certification more accessible, attainable, and affordable through a "Sound and Sensible" approach. This initiative includes streamlining the certification process, focusing on enforcement and working with farmers and processors to correct small issues before they become larger ones.
USDA has also established a number of resources to help organics producers find technical and financial resources to help them grow domestically and abroad. The site creates a one-stop-shop for operators, and USDA has made market and pricing information for approximately 250 organic products available free of charge through USDA's Market News. In 2015, USDA made more than $11.5 million available to assist organic operations with their certification costs.
The proposed rule will be published soon in the Federal Register and is available to view now at  Public participation and comments are vital to USDA's work in organic agriculture.  The organic community, stakeholders, and consumers are invited to submit written comments on the proposed rule by visiting once the proposed rule has published.   
Comments can also be submitted by mail using the process outlined in the proposed rule, to Paul Lewis, National Organic Program, USDA-AMS-NOP, Room 2646-So., Ag Stop 0268, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC  20250-0268.  
The National Organic Program, part of the Agricultural Marketing Service, is responsible for ensuring the integrity of organic agricultural products in the United States and throughout the world. More information is available at
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