Organic Farmers Protest Trump’s Removal of OLPP

Organic food companies and consumer groups showed their displeasure with the Trump Administration with a full-page ad in Wednesday’s Washington Post. ( Wyatt Bechtel )

Organic food companies and consumer groups showed their displeasure with the Trump Administration with a full-page ad in Wednesday’s Washington Post. The ad called out USDA and Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue for the decision to withdraw standards for animal welfare in organic food production.

Withdrawing the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule came on Dec. 29, and the two dozen groups protesting the decision published an open letter in the Post to Secretary Purdue below a large, bold-faced title: “If you eat food, you should read this.”

The OLPP rule was issued in the final days of the Obama Administration, and the letter to Perdue states that the OLPP clarifies and codifies animal welfare practices that give consumers what they expect in organic food choices, and is the result of a 20-year process with bipartisan support. The protestors claim that is now being subverted by political interference and the influence of industrial agriculture.

In announcing the OLPP’s withdrawal, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service said it was because the rule exceeded USDA’s statutory authority. The rule is subject to 30 days of public comment, which ends Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018.

Following USDA’s withdrawal in December, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., praised the decision. “With USDA’s wise decision to withdraw this rule, organic livestock and poultry producers can rest assured that they will not be forced out of business by another costly and burdensome regulation.”

Roberts said he campaigned against the rule from the beginning. “We warned the USDA of the unintended consequences of this rule, but our concerns fell on deaf ears in the previous administration. The rule was finalized two days before leaving office, despite its serious potential to force organic livestock and poultry producers out of business, increase prices paid by consumers for organic food, and increase animal disease and mortality. By withdrawing this rule, the Trump Administration is again demonstrating its commitment to de-regulate rural America.”

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) supported the demise of OLPP, but the action disappointed the National Farmers Union (NFU).

"Currently, we have too much inconsistency in how organic certifiers apply animal welfare standards to farming and ranching operations,” said Roger Johnson, NFU president. “This, in turn, endangers the organic label's integrity and leads to consumer confusion.”

George Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley, organizer of the cosigners to the open letter published to Sec. Perdue, pointed to “industrial agriculture” as the reason the rule was withdrawn.

 “We have seen industrial agriculture fight against animal welfare again and again, whether it is cage-free or ending gestation crates,” Siemon said. “Now, when organic wants consistent animal welfare standards supported by a strong public process, industrial agriculture’s fears are trumping. This is a clear case where USDA replaces established process with the dictate of industrial livestock to stop any animal welfare rules living at USDA – purely political and against organic.”

NPPC however, said in a statement that implementing the OLPP “would have incorporated into the National Organic Program welfare standards that were not based on science and that were outside the scope of the Organic Food Production Act of 1990. The act limited consideration of livestock as organic to feeding and medication practices.”





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Submitted by Cfranklin on Thu, 01/18/2018 - 10:07

First off the organic food business is nothing but a marketing gimmick. There is zero scientific evidence that it is somehow magically more healthy. And second, any livestock producer is fully aware that if his animals are not handled in a humane manner she/ he will soon be out of business. Physiologically stressed animals are poor producers as we are all aware.

Submitted by Tex Hall on Thu, 01/18/2018 - 22:47

Well said. "Organic" food is a wonderful niche market. Sell to those who want it locally, and don't down play traditional farming efforts. EVERY operation has a uniquely different set of circumstances that will help each produce it's product (beef, lamb, kid goat, asparagus, corn ...) in a method that is both cost EFFICIENT and sustainable. Somewhere on the curve between pure 'organic' and pure "chemical" production works most efficiently for each individual producer or that operation. To cast doubts about another method is not only bad business, it's dishonest. SELL your product with its own good stuff. If you have to spread fecal matter on other methods to make yours look better will only show your poor production. We're all in this for the same reason: to provide a safe, economical food supply to Americans and afterwards the rest of the world.

In reply to by Cfranklin (not verified)

Submitted by Clear Food on Thu, 01/18/2018 - 14:18

George Simeon & Organic Valley have been engaged in "fear profiteering" spreading disinformation about alleged safety, nutrition and quality differences between affordable conventional versus over-priced organic dairy, meat, etc... Same w/ animal welfare - conventional producers treat their animals as well - LIKELY BETTER - than organic. At least conventional dairy producers responsibly treat painful mastitis with real medicines that are banned for use by Simeon's organic cabal.

Submitted by Tex Hall on Thu, 01/18/2018 - 22:50

Good point. Animals are the lifeblood of our industry. If we lose one, it hurts our bottom lines. And, Yes, it takes a personal tole on us as well. Organic is a wonderful niche market. However, we need to accept that modern medicine has helped us save the lives of those that wouldn't be saved (at times) with organic methods.

In reply to by Clear Food (not verified)