Eleven months after President Trump took office, the USDA said it lacked the authority to implement livestock welfare rules for organic farmers, despite having spent years working on them. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Thursday that the USDA will reconsider that 2017 interpretation, a step that could lead to a revival of the regulation to give chickens, pigs, and cattle on organic farms more elbow room than they commonly get on factory farms.
The USDA spent a decade writing livestock welfare rules for organic farms before, in a regulatory U-turn, it decided last December that it lacked the power to implement those rules. The decision sparked a lawsuit by the organic community. Now a federal judge in San Francisco has rejected the government’s attempt to quash the suit.
As the National Organic Standards Board opened its semi-annual meeting this week, the USDA announced two appointments to the group’s 15-member board.
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.
Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree, with firsthand experience as an organic farmer, says the Trump administration’s proposals to cut USDA funding for organic agriculture programs “seem especially foolish and shortsighted” and that the integrity of the USDA “certified organic” seal must be protected.