Long Awaited Access to Pasture Rule Published
Recently, one of the biggest issues regarding organic regulation was finally resolved. On February 12, 2010, the USDA announced details of the
final rule regarding access to pasture for organic livestock operations.
This rule amends the National Organic Program (NOP) regulations to
clarify the use of pasture in raising organic ruminants. Prior to this, regulations did not offer specific guidelines and this lack of definition sparked
many heated debates.
“For most of the last decade, the USDA’s lack of issuing new standards
left a vacuum that was filled with rancor over what those new standards
should say and over whether all producers were following current stan-
dards,” said George Siemon, Organic Valley CEO, in an interview with
Sustainable Food News. “The family farmers who risk their livelihoods
through organic farming bore the brunt of this discourse as public trust
and the organic label began to erode. We hope these new standards will
foster a fresh era of cooperation among voices within the organic trade.”
This final rule is the culmination of a process that was initiated in
2005, when the National Organic Standards Board recommended that
ruminants obtain a minimum 30 percent dry matter intake from grazing
for at least 120 days. The proposed rule, published on Oct. 28, 2008, re-
ceived over 26,000 comments from producers, retailers, handlers, certify-
ing agents, consumers, trade associations, organic associations, animal
welfare organizations, consumer groups, state and local government enti-
ties and various industry groups.
Taking this feedback into consideration, the main components of the
new rule include:
• Animals must graze pasture during the grazing season, which must be
at least 120 days per year;
• Animals must obtain a minimum of 30 percent dry matter intake from
grazing pasture during the grazing season;
• Producers must have a pasture management plan and manage pasture
as a crop to meet the feed requirements for the grazing animals and to
protect soil and water quality; and,
• Livestock are exempt from the 30 percent dry matter intake require-
ments during the finish feeding period, not to exceed 120 days. Live-
stock must have access to pasture during the finishing phase.
The final rule provides certainty to consumers that organic livestock
production is a pasture-based system in which animals are actively grazing
pasture during the grazing season. Although the majority of organic dairy
New Partnership for
Silliker, a provider of food safety and quality
assurance services, recently announced it has entered into a strategic partnership with Organic
Education Solutions LLC to provide organic training and consulting services to manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and other stakeholders.
Organic Education Solutions was formed by the
executive team of Organic Concepts LLC, which
provides operational, regulatory and strategic
guidance to support organic certification goals.
To support growing organic training needs,
Organic Concepts launched the new company,
Organic Education Solutions LLC (OES). Silliker, a
leading provider of education services for the
food industry, will serve as the primary distributor of OES training products. OES will unveil its
initial products and materials at Natural Products
Expo West in March.
and ruminant livestock producers are already
grazing animals and maintaining pastures that
meet the requirements of this rule or go beyond
it, these standards contain clear requirements
that will provide greater assurance that all
producers are being held to the same standards.
“Clear and enforceable standards are essen-
tial to the health and success of the market for
organic agriculture,” said Agriculture Secretary
Tom Vilsack. “The final rule will give consumers
confidence that organic dairy comes from cows
raised on pasture, and organic family farmers
the assurance that there is one, consistent pas-
ture standard that applies to dairy products.”
The final rule becomes effective 120 days
after publication, June 17, 2010. Operations
which are already certified organic will have one
year to implement the provisions. Operations
which obtain organic certification after the ef-
fective date will be expected to demonstrate full
compliance. Although this is a final rule, com-
ments on the exceptions for finish feeding of
ruminant slaughter stock may be submitted be-
fore April 19, 2010.
The final rule and additional information
are on display at www.ams.usda.gov/NOP.