US District Court Orders USDA to Revise Errors Related to Organic Animal Welfare Rule Withdrawal
In a March 12 court order, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia agreed with the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA) lawsuit against the USDA that the withdrawal of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule was based on a flawed analysis. As background, the OLPP Rule set standards for organic livestock practices, including requirements for the production, transportation, and slaughter of organic livestock and poultry. The Rule also added provisions for outdoor access and space for organic poultry production, which resolved prior ambiguities regarding outdoor poultry access. According to OTA, the final rule was broadly supported by the vast majority of the organic community, which submitted approximately 47,000 comments.
Over the course of two and a half years, OTA argued that the USDA violated the Administrative Procedures Act by delaying the OLPP Rule’s effective date three times, and ultimately issuing a Final Withdrawal Rule. OTA further challenged the Withdrawal Rule by arguing that the USDA incorrectly concluded that it lacked authority to publish the OLPP Rule and that the Withdrawal Rule contained errors in its economic analysis.
In what appears to be somewhat of an admission, the USDA asked the court for remand to correct “a series of admitted flaws in the cost/benefit analysis in the OLPP Rule that were carried over into the Withdrawal Rule.” The court ordered the USDA to publish a final rule, after notice and comment, fully explaining its updated cost/benefit analysis within 180 days, and noted that, “after these many efforts, the Department should move quickly.” We will continue to monitor the status of the OLPP Rule.