National Organic Coalition and Organic Farmers Association Ask Congress to Provide COVID-19 Relief and to Press USDA to Finalize Critical Regulations
On May 7, 2020, the National Organic Coalition and the Organic Farmers Association sent a letter to congressional leaders urging Congress to include targeted support for the industry within the next coronavirus relief package. These groups noted that they require funding and technical assistance to help operations protect the health and safety of all who are involved in organic agriculture, certification, and compliance. Moreover, the groups urged congress to press USDA to finalize critical regulations, including the “Strengthening Organic Enforcement” rule and the Origin of Livestock rule.
In the letter, the interest groups noted that USDA should not let the pandemic further delay critical rulemaking, including finalizing the “Strengthening Organic Enforcement” rule, which is intended to close a loophole on uncertified handlers by requiring imports to be accompanied with electronic import certificates. This rule has been under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget since November 2019 and was supposed to be finalized by December 2019. The interest groups noted that this rule is important during the COVID-19 pandemic so that fraudulent importers do not see the pandemic as an opportunity to resume or expand fraudulent shipments.
The interest groups also urged congress to publish the final rule on Origin of Livestock (OOL), which specifies that organic dairy animals must be raised organically from the last third of gestation or be raised organically for one year if transitioning a conventional herd to organic, and further clarifies that this transition is allowed only once. The rule effectively prohibits continuous transitions and cycling of dairy animals in and out of organic production. Through the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations process, Congress mandated that USDA complete the OOL final rule by June 17, 2020. We will continue to monitor any developments.