Eleven months into the Trump administration, the Agriculture Department decided it lacks statutory authority to implement the livestock welfare rules that is wrote for organic farmers, and will announce today that it is killing the regulation. Groups representing conventional agriculture cheered the decision, which was disclosed at the end of last week, while the organic industry and its allies in Congress said USDA disregarded public sentiment and "could damage a marketplace that is giving American farmers a profitable alternative."
In one of USDA's biggest decisions in the Trump era, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue killed the so-called GIPSA rule on fair play in livestock marketing. Two months later, the farm group Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) filed suit in the U.S. appeals court in St. Louis for reinstatement of the rule, issued in the closing weeks of the Obama administration.
The Government Accountability Office urged federal regulators, in the words of Harvest Public Media, "to better protect meatpacking workers, who are often exposed to dangerous chemicals, not allowed bathroom breaks and refused medical treatment." The GAO report said workers sometimes decide not to report problems for fear of retaliation, making it harder for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to get a clear picture of conditions.
In Montana's Tom Miner Basin, just outside the protected wilds of Yellowstone National Park, ranchers are embracing a variety of non-lethal strategies to deal with an influx of grizzlies, reports Ensia in a story done in partnership with the Food & Environment Reporting Network. It's an experiment that could have broad implications for how the livestock industry manages these and other top predators as climate change restricts their traditional food supply.
Beginning on Wednesday, from 60,000 to 100,000 livestock and poultry operations will be required to report emissions of ammonia or hydrogen sulfide, said Drovers. The EPA previously exempted livestock farms from filing the reports but a federal court, in response to a lawsuit filed by environmentalists, vitiated the exemption.
For the third time this year, the Agriculture Department is holding up a regulation that would give livestock on organic farms more elbow room than is common at conventional operations, and this time, it says, it may rewrite the rule, which already is a decade in the making. "We will see the department in court and are confident that we will prevail on this important issue for the organic sector," said the Organic Trade Association, which sued USDA two months ago for unlawful delay of the animal welfare regulation.
In a major new statement about the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture, the World Health Organization is urging livestock agriculture and fish farming worldwide to sharply cut antibiotic use, reserving the precious drugs for animals that are sick and then choosing only antibiotics that are not important to human medicine. (No paywall)
Antibiotic-resistant infections — everything from gastrointestinal illnesses to recurring urinary tract infections and staph — are among the most menacing issues in public health today, sickening 2 million people a year and killing at least 23,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So perhaps it’s not surprising that government has begun to take steps to limit antibiotics in animal agriculture, where many of these infections arise, before they wreak further havoc in humans.
Big Ag is back on the offensive in Oklahoma, less than a year after voters defeated a bill that would have stripped the state’s residents of their ability to regulate corporate farming. The Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association wants ranchers to pay an additional $1 tax per head of cattle sold in the state, and will hold a Nov. 1 vote on the tax for Oklahoma cattle producers. Family farm advocates say that much of the money collected under such checkoff taxes is funneled to private industry groups that use it to promote the interests of corporate agriculture over independent farmers.