New USDA organic livestock rules

Many people are prepared to pay a premium price for organic products for the extra reassurance that what they are buying is a more healthy, “humane” and environmentally friendly product.

However, organic food labeling can be quite be confusing to consumers trying to interpret it and many folks aren’t even aware there are alls sorts of levels of “organic” in terms of labeling.

While the labeling can be hard enough to understand, all the guidelines that farmers face can be quite harrowing, with some exploiting loopholes at the expense of other farmers who are trying to do the right thing by the companies they supply and the end consumer.

A couple of weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced revised rules regarding access to pasture for organic livestock operations to help close some of these loopholes.

The main components of the rule include:

– Animals must graze pasture during a 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

– Livestock are exempt from the 30 percent dry matter intake requirements during the finish feeding period, not to exceed 120 days. Livestock must have access to pasture during the finishing phase.

120 days? I never really took into account that the cattle can’t probably be out in the paddocks 365 days a year in some parts of the world. As for the “finish feeding period”, I have no idea what that is either, so it’s something more for me to research; or perhaps someone familiar with the terminology might like to clarify this using the comments feature below.

The USDA says the final rule will give consumers confidence that organic milk or cheese comes from cows raised on pasture, and organic family farmers the assurance that there is one, consistent pasture standard that applies to dairy products.

Organic farmers – what’s your opinion? You can comment below.

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