OTA Sues USDA Over Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule

OTA’s lawsuit alleges that:
  • USDA violated the Administrative Procedure Act because it delayed OLPP without any public process and also violated the same act by abusing its discretion by proposing action to indefinitely delay or shelve the rule;
  • USDA violated the Organic Foods Production Act and its consultation provisions where industry and public stakeholders can revise, refine, and advance organic standards via the well-defined public process
  • The Trump administration’s executive order to freeze the creation and implementation of regulations, issued one day after the original implementation date of OLPP, should not apply to the voluntary organic standards that allow for businesses to opt in to the standards.
OLPP is the result of 14 years of public input and democratic work that established higher standards for livestock and poultry producers. The rule:
  • Ensures that all organic animals live in pasture-based systems,
  • Establishes minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for organic chickens,
  • Clarifies that outdoor spaces must include soil and vegetation,
  • Adds human handling requirements, and
  • Clarifies humane slaughter requirements.
The rule was finalized in January 2017, but its implementation was delayed until May. It was then further delayed until November 14, 2017. USDA reopened the commenting period on the rule to ask stakeholders whether it should let the rule become effective, suspend the rule, delay the rule past November, or withdraw the rule completely. Further delays of the rule, which has broad stakeholder support, is unacceptable and thwarts the democratic process in which organic regulations are created. 
OTA’s lawsuit asks the court to reverse USDA’s decisions to delay, rewrite, or shelve the rule and make the final livestock rule effective immediately. It explains the regulatory process outlined in the Organic Food Productions Act and details the uneven playing field that exists in organic livestock and poultry production.
For more information, contact Maggie McNeil at mmcneil@ota.com