The Organic Trade Association is both pleased and disappointed with USDA’s decision to reopen the comment period on a long-delayed proposed rule regulating when livestock can be considered organic.

“We welcome the movement on the part of Secretary [Tom] Vilsack’s USDA, but we wish this had been a final rule," OTA CEO and Executive Director Laura Batcha said. "Dairy producers across the country need this rule and it should be implemented immediately,” Spending bills in 2019 required issuance of a final rule by June 2020.

The department’s Agricultural Marketing Service will accept comments for 60 days starting May 12 on a proposal that requires organic milk and milk products be from animals “that have been under continuous organic management from the last third of gestation onward, with a limited exception for newly certified organic dairy producers,” according to the Federal Register notice.

OTA noted in comments submitted in 2019 that some USDA-accredited certifiers had been allowing dairies “to routinely bring non-organic animals into an organic operation, and transition them for one year, rather than raise their own replacement animals under organic management from the last third of gestation.”

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Certifiers “are also allowing dairies to remove organic dairy animals from a herd, raise them using conventional feed and other prohibited management practices, and then retransition them back to organic,” OTA said. “This practice of cycling dairy animals in and out of organic production is a violation of the organic regulations.”

In response to the reopening of the comment period, Batcha said “the bulk of the request for comment,” including another economic analysis, “involves issues that have been previously explored.”

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