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Supporting Organic Integrity with Clear Livestock and Poultry Standards

Posted by Elanor Starmer, AMS Administrator in Food and Nutrition Farming
Feb 21, 2017
Final Rule Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Infographic
This rule will ensure consumer confidence in the growing organic market by promoting consistency across the organic industry, supporting the continued growth of the organic livestock and poultry sector. (Click to view larger version)

The mission of the National Organic Program, part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is to protect the integrity of organic products in the U.S. and around the world. This means creating clear and enforceable standards that protect the organic integrity of products from farm to table.  Consumers trust and look for the USDA organic seal because they know that USDA stands behind the standards that it represents.

Today, USDA announced a final rule regarding organic livestock and poultry production practices.  The rule strengthens the organic standards, and ensures that all organic animals live in pasture based systems utilizing production practices that support their well-being and natural behavior. It’s an important step that will strengthen consumer confidence in the USDA organic seal and ensure that organic agriculture continues to provide economic opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and businesses across the country.

The rule clarifies how organic producers and handlers must treat their animals, brings clarity to the existing USDA organic regulations, and adds new requirements for organic livestock and poultry living conditions, transport, and slaughter practices.  For example, the rule establishes minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for organic chickens, clarifies that outdoor spaces must include soil and vegetation, adds humane handling requirements, and clarifies humane slaughter requirements.

The final rule is based on extensive input from the organic community and stakeholders. It’s consistent with direction from Congress in the Organic Foods Production Act, which provides USDA the authority to develop regulations to ensure consumers that organic products meet a consistent standard. This includes developing detailed standards for organic livestock and poultry production. The rule supports this core goal of the OFPA.  The regulations that created the National Organic Program also explained that USDA would develop species-specific guidelines and space requirements for organic animals.  Additionally, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a 15-member advisory committee that represents all sectors of the organic community, made a number of recommendations that were vital to the development of the rule.

There are three stages to implementing the rule.  Within one year, all provisions – except for outdoor access requirements for layers and indoor space requirements for broilers – must be implemented.  Within three years, organic broiler operations must comply with the indoor space requirements.  Within five years, all organic poultry operations must comply with the outdoor access requirements.

Most organic livestock and poultry producers already comply with the new requirements.  In fact, many producers use multiple certifications to demonstrate their animal health and welfare practices to consumers. This rule could make additional animal health and welfare certifications unnecessary, reducing the burden on organic producers.

USDA offers assistance programs and services to assist producers who need to modify their operations in response to these changes.  From conservation financial and technical assistance from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to loans for equipment and purchases from USDA’s Farm Service Agency, we are here to help.  For a comprehensive list of resources available, visit Technical and Financial Assistance for Organic Producers.  You may also visit to learn more about USDA’s programs and services tailored to meet the needs of the organic sector.

USDA is committed to supporting the continued growth of the organic livestock and poultry sector, and ensuring consumer confidence in the organic market, which in 2015 was worth over $43 billion in the U.S. alone.  To build on this support, it has been a top priority to strengthen standards for organic livestock and poultry, ensuring that we meet consumer expectations and maintain the integrity of the USDA organic seal.  You can learn more about the final rule on our website.

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition Farming

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Derrick Nyirenda
Jan 19, 2017

I am based in Zambia.I am looking for funding in poultry for expansion.

Derrick Nyirenda
Jan 19, 2017

Can be very happy if considered.

Derrick Nyirenda
Jan 19, 2017

kindly,assist as soon as possible because there is great opportunity in the industry here.

Derrick Nyirenda
Jan 19, 2017

More when you reapply.

John Boere
Feb 17, 2017

Why do you make more rules when the rules now are not inforced.dairys feeds conventional feed and sales his milk organic a dairy feeds conventional silage and sell there milk organic a dairy buys conventional heifers worms them brand them and milk them organic the same day a lot of organic dairy don't graze there cows and sell there milk organic dairy's that treat there con with conventional drugs and sell there milk organic some of the milk company know they cheat and keep useing the milk organic.and then the milk plants mix up of conventional and makes me sick.

Esmeralda Revolorio
Jan 13, 2018

Please usdagov I urge you to reconsider and keep organic livestock and poultry practices rule in place. We must move forward not backwards. We are responsible for the welfare of all farm animals. We should increase the standards at which this animals are cared for. Let's lead the way to respecting the world around us and protecting its creatures. It affects us all to maintain these rules that give these poor creatures some kind of protection and altimately feed the world. I don't eat any aminal products because I do not agree with most live stock and poultry rules/regulations in place. However, it is still important to me knowing that this country is something positive to improve the industry. Please do not go back in time. Thank you for your time and attention. A concerned consumer, Esmeralda