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USDA Announces Intention to Withdraw Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Final Rule

  • As previously covered on this blog, on January 19, 2017, USDA published a controversial final rule on organic livestock and poultry which establishes minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for chickens as a function of type of production and stage of life, as well as adds new provisions for livestock handling and transport for slaughter. 82 FR 7042.  The effective date for this rule was initially March 20, 2017.  On February 9, 2017, USDA delayed the effective date to May 19, 2017.  On May 10, 2017, USDA published a Notice in the Federal Register (82 FR 21677) delaying the effective date of the final rule for an additional six months to November 14, 2017.  And on November 9, 2017, USDA announced a further delay of the effective date of the Final Rule to May 14, 2018.

  • Today, USDA published a notice in the federal register formally announcing its intention to withdraw the final rule (82 FR 59988).  USDA is basing its proposal to withdraw the final rule on its contention that the final rule exceeds USDA’s statutory authority and on USDA’s revised assessments of the rule’s benefits and burdens. If this withdrawal is finalized, the existing organic livestock and poultry regulations now published at 7 CFR part 205 would remain effective. Stakeholder reaction has been mixed.

  • The Organic Trade Association (OTA) stated that it is “dismayed” at USDA’s action. In a press release, OTA stated: “This groundless step by USDA is being taken against a backdrop of nearly universal support among the organic businesses and consumers for the fully vetted rules that USDA has now rejected. By the department’s own count, out of the more than 47,000 comments the department received in the last public comment period for the regulation, 99 percent were in favor of the rule becoming effective without further delay on Nov 14. USDA noted that of those 47,000 comments, only 28 supported withdrawing the rule.” The OTA is pursuing legal action in federal court to salvage the final rule.

  • On the other hand, the National Pork Producers Council issued a statement commending USDA’s move: “The Obama-era regulation … 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 . . . We’d like to thank Sec. Perdue and the Trump administration for listening to our concerns with the rule and recognizing the serious challenges it would have presented our producers.”

  • USDA will be accepting comments on the proposal to withdraw the final rule through January 17, 2018. Given the controversial nature of the Final Rule, its ultimate fate continues to remain unclear.

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Keller and Heckman offers global food and drug services to its clients. Our comprehensive and extensive food and drug practice is one of the largest in the world. We promote, protect, and defend products made by the spectrum of industries regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Commission and Member States authorities in the European Union (EU) and similar authorities throughout the world. The products we help get to market include foods, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, veterinary products, dietary supplements, and cosmetics. In addition...