April 27, 2022

USDA establishes final rule for organic dairy

USDA establishes final rule for organic dairy 

By: Sydney Sheffield 

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) published the highly anticipated Origin of Livestock final rule for organic dairy. The amendment to the rule is said to increase uniformity in the origin of livestock production practice for organic dairy animals and reduce variance between the approaches taken by certifying agents. The rule will come into effect on June 6, 2022. 

“This action demonstrates the USDA’s strong commitment to America’s organic dairy farmers,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a USDA press release. “The Origin of Livestock final rule provides clear and uniform standards about how and when livestock may be transitioned to organic dairy production, and how transitioned animals are managed within the organic dairy system. Now, all organic dairy livestock producers will have the confidence and certainty they are operating in a fair and competitive market.”

USDA states that this change to the USDA organic regulations will promote a fairer and more competitive market for all organic dairy producers, by making sure that certified USDA organic dairy products are produced to the same consistent standard. It will allow a dairy livestock operation transitioning to organic, or starting a new organic farm, to transition non-organic animals one time. The final rule also prohibits organic dairies from sourcing any transitioned animals. Once a dairy animal is certified organic, the animal must be managed as organic from the last third of gestation. Small businesses may request adjustments in certain situations.

“Consumers of dairy that carry the USDA Certified Organic Seal can trust that those products meet their expectations for how organic dairy products are produced,” said Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. “At the same time, the rule announced today also ensures new organic producers have a fair way to enter the market.”

The final rule is being celebrated by those in public office, fighting for the interests of organic farmers. Governor Janet Mills of Maine, said in a statement, “On behalf of the Maine organic dairy industry, I thank the USDA for finalizing the Origin of Livestock Rule. While long overdue, this action will ensure consistency in how farms can source and transition dairy cows to organic production. Removing this long-open loophole will provide much-needed clarity and level the playing field for Maine's organic dairy farmers.”

Likewise, the dairy industry supports the change. “This rulemaking has been a priority for our farmers for years—today USDA has delivered,” said Adam Warthesen, Director of Government and Industry Affairs, Organic Valley. “This Origin of Livestock rulemaking levels the playing field by ensuring consistency in how farms source and transition dairy cows to organic production.”

Background information, webinars on the final rule, and supporting materials can be found here.