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June 21, 2017

Obama Administration’s Organic Animal Welfare Rule Postponed a Second Time

For the second time, the effective date of the Organic Animal Welfare Rule (OAWR) proposed by the United States Department of Agriculture during the last days of the Obama administration has been pushed back. The new effective date of the Rule is November 14, 2017. The Rule in its current form places restrictions on the handling and housing of livestock and poultry. For example, the Rule adds requirements on how organic livestock and poultry may be transported to slaughter and places limits on indoor/outdoor stocking densities for organic chickens. According to U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, the OAWR is “bad news for farmers, ranchers, and consumers.” Roberts also said, “Organic consumers will see increased prices at the grocery store; family farmers will be put out of business; and animal health will be put at risk, which will decrease food safety.” Holding a similar attitude toward the OAWR, Ernie Birchmeier, Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) Livestock and Dairy Specialist, remarked that “the proposed changes will do more harm to the industry than good. There is nothing wrong with making changes to strengthen the program, but when changes are made in an attempt to force people out of business and protect a small fraction of the industry, that’s just bad government.”

John Kran, MFB National Lobbyist, voiced the Bureau’s intention to influence the direction of the OAWR during the public comment period, stating: “We will submit comments – again – to share insight and recommendations to improve the rule from its original form that didn’t take into consideration sound animal care practices and the concerns raised by industry experts. The final rule should be based on food safety, biosecurity and animal health.”

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