Organic Trade Association Advances Court Battle to Defend Organic Standards

A news release last week from the Organic Trade Association stated that, “The Organic Trade Association on Thursday asked the U.S. District Court to rule in its favor on its organic livestock welfare lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In its motion for summary judgment, the trade association stated that USDA acted in an unlawful, arbitrary and capricious way when it killed new organic livestock standards centered around improving animal care and welfare.

“The Organic Trade Association argued USDA’s blocking of the implementation and rescission of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) rule in 2018 were actions plainly in excess of lawful authority and, if not corrected, threaten the consumer trust and historical growth that organic has always enjoyed.  The motion asked the court to immediately vacate USDA’s rescission and compel implementation of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule.

“The association contends the case has importance to all organic stakeholders because USDA made legal arguments that will reverberate adversely for years if not corrected by the federal judiciary. The association argues that USDA’s refusal to exercise its statutory authority to promote the improved livestock care practices on organic farms that were lost when the OLPP was rescinded and its refusal to consult with the National Organic Standards Board, are a radical departure from past administrations, and flatly contradict the intent of Congress in the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA).”

Last week’s update added that, “The Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule was published on Jan. 19, 2017, after more than a decade of extensive public input and a thorough vetting process. USDA in March of 2018 withdrew the final OLPP regulation, which was to go into effect in May 2018. Before the withdrawal, the agency attempted six times – either through the rulemaking process or through court filings – to delay the implementation of the rule, which had been developed by the organic industry and in accordance with the established federal rulemaking process. USDA failed to consult with the National Organic Standards Board on the withdrawal of the final rule, and arbitrarily ignored the overwhelming public record established in support of these organic standards.

“The Organic Trade Association filed its initial lawsuit against USDA in September 2017 over the department’s delays in implementing the final OLPP rule.

USDA’s cross-motion for summary judgment and opposition to the trade association’s s motion is now due Dec. 4. The Organic Trade Association’s answer to USDA’s cross-motion is due Dec. 31. USDA gets a final reply on Jan. 28.  Sometime after that, the court will rule on the case.”

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