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New USDA Pasture Rule Will Give Consumers More Confidence in Organic Meat and Dairy

For Immediate Release: February 17, 2010

Contact: Lexie Stoia Pierce, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 221, lexie@oeffa.org

New USDA Pasture Rule Will Give Consumers More Confidence in Organic Meat and Dairy

Statement by Lexie Stoia Pierce, OEFFA Certification Program Manager

“On February 12, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) published a long anticipated final rule establishing pasture standards for organic livestock. The new rule gives teeth to the existing NOP policy, allowing us to better ensure that organic milk and meat products come from animals that are actively grazed on pasture and have daily access to fresh air and sunshine.

The new pasture rule provides the clear and specific language needed to enforce one of the central requirements of organic livestock production—that organic cows are raised on natural pasture and eat fresh, green, growing plants. The rule sets specific guidelines that require dairy cows and other ruminants to be on pasture for the entire grazing season of not less than 120 days and that at least 30 percent of their feed comes from pasture during the season.

The publication of the final rule will enable us to consistently and fairly enforce the requirements for access to pasture and provides greater clarity for farmers, so they know exactly what is expected of them if they want to label their milk as “organic.”

Although most organic farms in Ohio have long exceeded these requirements, the clarity provided in this new rule will ensure that organic mega-dairies elsewhere in the country will bring their practices in line with not just the spirit of organics but what is now the letter of the law. The organic farmers that we represent are celebrating this rule because it will help to protect the integrity of the organic label.

For the public, this rule helps ensure that consumers get what they pay for. In publishing this rule, the USDA is recognizing overwhelming public support for access to pasture. For consumers who care about the humane treatment of livestock, the organic standards ensure that animals are raised in living conditions that allow them to exhibit their natural behaviors, graze, and move freely.”

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To access the USDA’s Access to Pasture Rule, go to http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5082652&acct=noprulemaking.

To read a USDA factsheet on the new rule, go to

http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5082660&acct=noprulemaking.

To read the USDA’s press release, go to

http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal?contentidonly=true&contentid=2010/02/0059.xml.

The Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA) is a non-profit organization founded in 1979 by farmers, gardeners, and conscientious eaters who committed to work together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system. OEFFA has operated a Certification Program since 1981. In 2002, when the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) was created, OEFFA was among the first group of certifiers to be accredited by the USDA to certify under the new national standards. Today, OEFFA certifies a diverse group of over 650 operations throughout the Midwest, including mixed vegetable and grain farms, family dairies, food processors, and everything in between. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.