USDA Organic Rule Delayed- Impact on Organic Egg Production

Geoffrey Mohan reported on the front page of the business section in today’s Los Angeles Times that, “In early November, the USDA quietly shelved a rule that would have given consumers a bit more of what they assume is part of organic eggs — open air.

“Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue (who is not related to the chicken family) left open a loophole in organic regulations that has allowed factory egg farms, some with 100,000 hens to a barn, to earn an organic imprimatur without much more than a nod to letting chickens leave their coop — that is, attaching a gated, screened porch to their barns.”

“USDA leaves open ‘organic’ loophole,” by Geoffrey Mohan. Los Angeles Times (November 21, 2017).

“It was the third delay for the obscure but highly contentious rule, which had made it into the Federal Register on the day before President Trump took the oath of office, only to fall victim to his ‘regulatory freeze’ executive order.”

The article noted that, “Organic eggs now fill the refrigerators of big-box stores such as Costco and Wal-Mart. Most of those eggs come from the titans of the egg industry, such as Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch in Michigan and Mississippi-based Cal-Maine.

“Those and other egg farms have built their facilities around a 2002 ruling by USDA that allowed farms to attach a screened porch to a chicken barn and qualify it as ‘outdoor space’ under the organic rules. At least a third of organic egg producers operate under that model, according to USDA.”

Mr. Mohan noted explained that, “USDA has said it would cost the industry $8 million to $30 million over about 15 years to comply with the revised organic rules. Consumers would pay an additional 21 to 50 cents per dozen eggs, the agency estimated. (The agency said benefits of the change, including increasing the willingness of consumers to pay more for the certified eggs, are worth $4 million to $50 million.)”

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