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Roberts: Red Tape Cut on Organic Livestock, Poultry Rules
Nebraska Ag Connection - 03/13/2018

U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, Monday praised the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) announcement of a finalized rule that withdraws a controversial regulation that would have revised organic livestock and poultry production standards. The withdrawal is effective May 13.

"It's official -- the Obama Administration rule that would have jeopardized the livelihood of organic livestock and poultry producers is gone," said Roberts. "America's organic livestock and poultry producers can now breathe easy that they can maintain the health of their flocks and herds the best way they see fit, and they will not be driven out of business by another government regulation. I thank Secretary Perdue for listening to their concerns and withdrawing this damaging rule."

USDA said in a separate release Monday that significant policy and legal issues were identified after the rule published in January 2017. After careful review and two rounds of public comment, USDA has determined that the rule exceeds the Department's statutory authority, and that the changes to the existing organic regulations could have a negative effect on voluntary participation in the National Organic Program, including real costs for producers and consumers.

"The existing robust organic livestock and poultry regulations are effective," said USDA Marketing and Regulatory Program Undersecretary Greg Ibach. "The organic industry's continued growth domestically and globally shows that consumers trust the current approach that balances consumer expectations and the needs of organic producers and handlers."

According to USDA reports for 2017, the number of certified organic operations increased domestically by seven percent and globally by 11 percent. Industry estimates show that organic sales in the United States reached almost $47 billion in 2016, reflecting an increase of almost $3.7 billion since 2015.

The Department carefully considered public comments and the relative costs and benefits for both producers and consumers of imposing the proposed additional regulations.

Roberts has consistently opposed this rule and other onerous regulations that increase the paperwork burden and drive up the cost of production for farmers and ranchers. Under Chairman Roberts' leadership, the Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing in May 2016 on the U.S. livestock and poultry sectors, which included testimony from a variety of producers. That same day, Chairman Roberts successfully led a bipartisan, bicameral request to extend the public comment period for this rule. In July 2016, Chairman Roberts led a bipartisan coalition of Senators in sending a second letter to the USDA requesting additional information on producers' concerns over the rule.

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