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The certified organic seal is under attack. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced their intention to withdraw the animal welfare standards, known formally as the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule, from the certified organic standards. The OLPP final rule’s intent was to implement animal welfare standards that would ensure livestock have adequate access to fresh air and sun, humane indoor living conditions, and outdoor space for foraging and roaming.

This marks an extreme about-face for the federal agency under Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. 14 years in the making using a transparent public process, the OLPP final rule was scheduled for adoption into law on May 14, 2018, after having been delayed multiple times. However, since federal deregulation has become a top priority under our new administration, the USDA has stated its intent to abolish the OLPP final rule altogether. This action has dire consequences, from negating years of public process, to disregarding animal welfare in favor of Big Ag profits, to undermining consumer trust in the organic label and organically certified foods.

Towards the end of 2017, the USDA initiated a 30-day public comment period to gather feedback once again on the current status of the OLPP final rule. Prior to the public comment deadline last Wednesday, January 17th, Mississippi Market stood in solidarity with National Cooperative Grocers in opposing the action on behalf of our over 18,000 member-owners who trust the organic label. A copy of the formal comment submitted can be seen below. Mississippi Market Co-op member-owners and shoppers are encouraged to continue advocating for transparency and animal welfare implementation in the organic standards.

As a cooperatively-owned Minnesota retail business that prides itself on providing Twin Cities residents with access to certified organic food, including humanely-raised meat, poultry, egg, and dairy products, Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op opposes the USDA’s move to withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule. This action goes against the overwhelming support of organic farmers, businesses, and consumers nationwide to advance animal welfare standards and undermines food system transparency, consumer trust in the organic seal, and the foundational values on which food cooperatives are based.

USDA’s failure to uphold this fully-vetted regulation calls into question the entire public process by which organic regulations are set and has the potential to not only undermine consumer trust, but diminish the livelihoods of organic family farmers while increasing organic products in the marketplace that don’t truly align with the standards. If passed, this decision will nullify 14 years of public, transparent policymaking developed and supported by the organic industry.

This attempt to unilaterally withdraw the animal care standards without consultation from the National Organic Standards Board – the very group of farmers, processors, scientists, and public representatives designated by Congress to advise USDA on the organic standards – sets a dangerous precedence in the natural foods industry. As organic business stakeholders, Mississippi Market and our over 18,000 invested member-owners urge the USDA to protect consumer trust in the certified organic seal. The future of the organic market, from farmers to retailers to consumers, depends on it.