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VIDEO: In Hearing, Pingree Pushes USDA on a Final Organic Origin of Livestock Rule

Washington, July 17, 2019

Today in a Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research Subcommittee hearing of the House Committee on Agriculture, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) questioned United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Marketing and Regulatory Programs Undersecretary Greg Ibach on the National Organic Program and the delay in the origin of livestock rulemaking.

“It’s completely unacceptable that you’re going to suggest that we’re going to have a proposed rule this year. We had a proposed rule in 2015. And…there was a lot of support for it. [Secretary Perdue] said to me ‘well, there are some opinions on either side…’ No. There are not a lot of opinions on either side,” said Pingree in the hearing. “This is a real consensus item, and as you’ve heard some of my colleagues talk about, organic dairy farmers are really challenged by not having this rule and by people basically breaking what should be a rule…There should be a final rule this year. There should not be a proposed rule, and I do not understand why you’re suggesting that there would be.”

To watch or download Pingree’s questions in the committee, click here.

For years, the organic community has asked for clarity on standards relating to the origin of organic livestock. Some organic certifiers are currently allowing dairy animals to be continuously transitioned in and out of organic production, while other certifiers correctly enforce the one-time transition of livestock. The Origin of Livestock proposed rule, developed under the Obama Administration in 2015, would have clarified that continuous transition of non-organic livestock into organic production is prohibited. The proposed rule would have leveled the playing field for organic dairy farmers, thus protecting the integrity of the organic label.

Pingree sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in May of 2019, asking him to finalize the origin of livestock rulemaking. Pingree had originally questioned the Secretary on the lack of a consistent origin of organic livestock standard and why the USDA has not finalized the origin of livestock ruling in a House Appropriations Committee hearing in April of 2019. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Pingree secured the inclusion of language directing the USDA to finalize the origin of organic livestock ruling in the FY2020 Agriculture Appropriations Bill that the House passed last month.

Secretary Perdue has claimed that there has been “division” in industry on the origin of livestock rulemaking; Pingree has pushed the USDA to provide information about any opposition to the rulemaking because the organic community has expressed widespread support for the final rule.

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