On January 18th, USDA released the final rules for more stringent animal-welfare standards for organic agriculture. The new rule will now take place 60 days later than planned due to the administration's freeze on new regulations. Under the new rules, organic cattle, pigs, and poultry must be allowed outdoor access each day, and living conditions must include fresh air, sunlight, and proper ventilation. Additionally, livestock must have at least enough space to stand up, lie down, and move about.
While all existing USDA and FDA health and safety rules will remain in place once the new rules are implemented, the rules will bar some allowed conventional farming practices like clipping beaks and cutting the tails of cows and pigs.
Most certified organic producers already follow these rules, and the organic standards have always required outdoor access and space. However, the new rules are important in ensuring all organic producers are playing by the same rules.
Consumers often choose to buy organic eggs, poultry, and meat because organic farmers raise their animals in the healthiest conditions possible – with access to the outdoors, space to move around, and freedom to exhibit their natural behaviors.
These animal welfare rules incorporate input from thousands of stakeholders as well as recommendations the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a stakeholder board which includes organic producers, scientists, and consumers that advise the USDA.
OFRF is pleased that USDA has been able to advance animal welfare standards that have been in the works for years. However, many of the new rules won't go into effect until 2018, and some of the changes aren't required to be fully implemented by egg and poultry producers until 2020. The effective date could give the next administration time to make changes before the new rules take effect and the further delay announced on February 8th is cause for concern.