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By Ed Maltby, NODPA Executive Director
The 20th Annual NODPA Field Days was postponed until 2021 and we had a hybrid Field Days consisting of a NODPA News Field Days Supplement in our September issue along with video presentations online at www.nodpa.com. However, one of the key components of the annual NODPA Field Days has always been the Producer-Only meeting. This year, we had a virtual Producer-Only meeting as a conference call—none of those fancy ZOOM calls! Producers from throughout the US were on the call, and it was a good opportunity to catch up. Thanks to all who dialed in.
Here is a summary of the call which took place before the results of the Presidential election was known:
There were over 20 folks on the call, made up of both NODPA and WODPA members. The principal area of discussion was the Origin of Livestock (OOL) update plus whether to sign on to the Organic Trade Association (OTA)/CROPP Cooperative /Danone letter complaining about the National Organic Program’s (NOP) decision not to publish a Final Rule. Ed Maltby started the discussion with a summary of the facts and the current situation.
The decision not to publish the Final Rule and move instead to a third Proposed Rule on OOL was announced as part of the NOP report at the National Organic Standards Board’s (NOSB) virtual meeting on October 28th 2020. This new Proposed Rule will address the concerns raised by the USDA Office of General Council (OGC) which was summarized as:
The overwhelming consensus from participants on the call was that NODPA/WODPA should stick with our joint statement and not sign on to the letter. Subsequently, the National Organic Coalition (NOC) and the Organic Farmers Association (OFA) also decided not to sign on. The letter from OTA can be found at the end of this summary.
OTA was concerned that the USDA would use the failure of the Final Rule to pass through USDA agency review to further justify their lawsuit’s defense for not allowing the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) to be implemented. USDA has said that the OFPA does not give it the authority to deal with animal welfare issues (they can only deal with healthcare, not animal welfare). OTA and OV attorneys say that OFPA does give USDA the authority to implement regulation involving animal welfare and fear that USDA accepting the decision of OGC will impact the success of their lawsuit. Whereas the OLPP does deal with health care, OOL does not. It is a simple regulatory issue about what defines organic certification of dairy animals.
Some points that were raised on the producer’s call:
The Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance and the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance welcome the announcement by the National Organic Program that clarifies the situation with the Origin of Livestock Final Rule. We strongly urge the NOP to quickly move to publish a new Proposed Rule with a short comment period followed by the timely publication of a Final Rule with immediate implementation.
Our producers have been working for the last two decades to bring clarity, consistency and regulatory enforcement to how conventional dairy cows can be transitioned to organic production. We want a level playing field for all organic dairy producers, no matter the size of their operation, location, certification agency or ownership.
We need a regulation that will stop continuous transition, and stop the two track system that has caused an uneven economic playing field for how dairy producers can move to, or grow, their organic production. The whole one-time transition must happen over a twelve-month period and under the supervision of a certifier as part of the producer’s Organic System Plan. We need one regulation for all organic dairy producers, whether they are large or small operations, which recognize the unique needs of beginning organic dairy operations. We want to encourage and facilitate the increase in the number of organic dairy producers, recognizing the sweat equity and commitment of existing organic dairy producers and their families while retaining the integrity of the organic seal and support of the consumers.
We need a regulation that can be enforced with consistency, using the existing infrastructure of the National Organic Program that reflects the intent of the many parts of the Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) of 1990 and recognizes the current state of the organic dairy industry 30 years later. There needs to be clarity as to whom or what is the responsible ‘person’ (as defined by the regulation) that is recorded within the organic database. Some parts of organic regulations look to the operation, while other parts to the producer as the “person” of record. Tracking and accountability will need to be well defined with any Final Rule to ensure that organic dairy producers and their production practices retain the trust of the organic consumer.
October 30, 2020
The Honorable Sonny Perdue
Secretary, United States Department of Agriculture
Jamie L. Whitten Building, Room 116A
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, D.C. 20250
RE: National Organic Program – Origin of Livestock Rulemaking
Dear Secretary Perdue,
The recent announcement by the National Organic Program (NOP) to backtrack and initiate yet another proposed rule on the Origin of Livestock is extremely disappointing.
As you well know, the ongoing divergence in certifier’s application of the Origin of Livestock creates unmistakable competitive harm among market participants. This failure has long been recognized, and the 2015 proposed rule offered a remedy allowing a one-time event that permits the transition of a conventional herd to organic and thereafter the dairy farm/producer will only source from dairy livestock managed as organic from the last third of gestation.
The 2015 proposed rule garnered strong public and industry support through two comment periods with over 2300 comments and 99% of commenters supporting the general premise of the proposed rule offered by the NOP.
Additionally, there is clear Congressional intent for this rule to be finalized quickly, evidenced by the December 20, 2019 FURTHER CONSOLIDATED APPROPRIATIONS ACT which stated:
SEC. 756. Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Agriculture shall issue a final rule based on the proposed rule entitled ‘‘National Organic Program; Origin of Livestock,’’ published in the Federal Register on April 28, 2015 (80 Fed. Reg. 23455): Provided, That the final rule shall incorporate public comments submitted in response to the proposed rule.
The enactment of the federal law requiring USDA action on Origin of Livestock was over 300 days ago.
A second proposed rule and yet again another comment period is unnecessary and has not been justified to the impacted industry. There is very little or nothing to be discovered or gained from a second proposed rule on the Origin of Livestock and a third public comment period, especially since the last public comment period was less than a year ago.
We do not agree that the impediments USDA has claimed to have identified would prohibit the immediate issuing of a final rule.
We urge USDA to issue a final rule on the Origin of Livestock without delay.
National Organic Trade Association
CROPP Cooperative | Organic Valley
Danone North America
Stonyfield Farm, Inc
Maple Hill Creamery
Straus Family Creamery
Accredited Certifier Association
Montana Organic Association
Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service
Aurora Organic Dairy
California Certified Organic Farmers
Pennsylvania Certified Organic
Alexandre Family Farm
Sheffers Grassland Dairy LLC
Maine Organic Milk Producers
Organic Egg Farmers of America
Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship
Westby Coop Creamery
CC: Under Secretary Greg Ibach
U.S. Representative Collin Peterson
U.S. Representative Michael Conaway
U.S. Senator Pat Roberts
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow
National Organic Standard Board
Posted: to Field Days on Sun, Dec 6, 2020
Updated: Mon, Dec 7, 2020