USDA Finalizes Organic Dairy Rule

The highly anticipated Organic Dairy Rule or Origin of Livestock final rules for organic milk were published by USDA on March 29. USDA claims that this USDA Organic Regulations change will make organic dairy products more affordable and more competitive in the market.

Now the consumers can be confident that USDA Certified Organic Seal-certified organic dairy products would meet their standards for quality. Moreover, the rule will ensure that new organic producers have fair access to the market.

According to the National Organic Coalition, the ‘Origin of Livestock’ loopholes have been a problem for organic dairy farmers. They are causing financial distress and long-term economic hardship. Although a rule was proposed to close these loopholes in 2015, USDA has delayed finalizing them for years despite the advocacy of NOC and organic communities and a mandate from Congress.

This is a win-win for dairy farmers and anyone who values the integrity of the organic programs. The new rule closes loopholes that give some operations unfair advantages. Maltby states that the rule is essential and meaningful to ensure the livelihoods of organic dairy farmers at the family-scale.

Organic Dairy Rule

The Organic Dairy Rule shows the USDA’s strong dedication to America’s Organic Dairy Farmers. USDA’s National Organic Program will oversee the new rule. This allows dairy operations to either transition to organic or starts a new farm to raise organic animals. Organic dairies are prohibited from purchasing any animals that have been transitioned. After a dairy has been certified organic, the animals must be kept organically until they reach their third year of gestation. Small businesses may request variations for certain situations.

All organic dairy livestock producers now have the assurance that they are operating in an equitable and competitive market. The ‘Origin of Livestock’ final rules provides clear and consistent standards regarding when and how livestock can be converted to organic dairy production and how the transition is managed within the organic milk system. These provisions define which animals are organic and can produce organic milk. 

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The rule allows transitioning or new organic producers to convert non-organic animals into organic milk production. It also prohibits organic dairies from sourcing any transitioned animals — a restriction created to prevent dairy operations from using recently-transitioned animals to bypass the one-time transition period restrictions.

The final rule states that milk and dairy products must be produced from organically managed dairy animals before birth. An exception allows for organic production to transition from a conventional dairy herd under certain conditions. After the transition is complete, an operation can add organically-managed animals to its organic dairy herd. This applies only to animals born before or after a third of gestation. The operation can’t source animals that have been transitioned from another operation.

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Organic Dairy Rule Benefits

The National Organic Coalition strongly encouraged USDA to stop transitioned animals being sold to other farms as organic livestock. This creates an opportunity to exploit lower organic operations that organically manage animals since birth. This final rule will set the stage for a crackdown on bad actors and give the USDA National Organic Program tools to stop the egregious abuses which have been affecting family organic dairy farmers.

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