Washington, D.C.—The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is urging Congress to oppose an amendment to the House Agriculture Appropriations bill that "would effectively block the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from adopting regulations that update key organic animal welfare provisions." The amendment, put forth by Congressman Keith Self (R-TX), is unjust and unwarranted, OTA said, adding that the effort is "part of a broader attempt to dismantle the National Organic Program."

The regulations, formally known as the Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards, have been under discussion and review for more than 20 years. The primary goals: 

  • to standardize organic livestock and poultry regulations.
  • to ensure that the highest standard of care is the baseline for all organic producers. 

OTA Outlines Concerns with Amendment

The amendment would specifically prohibit any funds to be used to “write, prepare, or publish any final or interim final rule relating to, or otherwise implement or enforce, the proposed rule entitled ‘National Organic Program; Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards’ published in the Federal Register on August 9, 2022.” 

Tom Chapman, OTA CEO, said, “Adoption of this amendment would set a dangerous precedent for organic rule-making and threaten the future of organic. Organic producers and anyone who values organic need to realize that this is about a whole lot more than animal welfare.” 

If the amendment is adopted, Chapman said, “the entire structure that governs USDA’s National Organic Program would be weakened, ultimately causing severe economic harm to tens of thousands of organic producers and businesses across the country, and irrefutably shaking the confidence of consumers in the USDA Organic label.”  

OTA shared the history of the regulation, which it said have wide support from the organic industry and consumers. USDA released its final Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices regulation in early 2017, OTA explained, after 14 years of vetting and review by organic stakeholders and industry and government experts. Implementation of the final rule was delayed and blocked, and it was ultimately withdrawn. In the fall of 2017, OTA filed a lawsuit against the USDA for "unlawfully delaying the implementation of the regulation and violating the Organic Foods Production Act." This lawsuit is ongoing. (Background: Court Advances OTA's Lawsuit Against USDA)

The current Administration proposed the Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards regulation in August 2022. OTA said this in line with the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule. 

Call to Action on Organic

OTA is advocating against the amendment on Capitol Hill and engaging members and other organic stakeholders in the campaign.“We have been fighting against efforts to weaken the organic system and prevent organic standards from advancing for decades, and we’re not going to stop now,” said Chapman. “This latest move to tie the hands of the USDA in carrying out its legal responsibilities regarding organic will not stand, and we urge all organic stakeholders to speak out against this and for Congress to solidly defeat it.”

OTA is urging its members to:

  1. Contact your representative and tell them you oppose the Self Amendment to the House Agriculture Appropriations bill. Call (202) 224-3121 for the U.S. House switchboard to get connected with the appropriate office and explain that the amendment will:
  • Undermind 14 years of work by organic farmers and businesses;
  • Hurt family farmers competing under uneven rules; and
  • Tarnishes consumer trust in the US organic label.
  • Support OTA’s advocacy work to defend organic.
  • Sign OTA’s industry letter to oppose the Self amendment.
  • Contact Senior Director of Government Affairs Peter Mihalick (pmihalick@ota.com) for more information.

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