A third delay has been announced regarding the implementation of an Obama-era rule dictating the treatment of certain animals sold for meat.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that it is pushing back the rule, which was originally finalized under the Obama administration and dictates how producers and handlers, whose meat is sold “certified organic” under the National Organic Program, must treat livestock and poultry to ensure their well-being.
In a notice published in the Federal Register this week, the USDA explains that the cost of the final rules may outweigh the benefits, which would act against the Organic Foods Production Act’s text, nature, and purpose.
According to The Hill: The rules stipulate that poultry must be housed in spaces that are big enough for the birds to move freely, stretch their wings, stand normally and engage in natural behaviors. Livestock, meanwhile, must be provided access to an outdoor space year round and be kept in indoor pens that are sufficiently large, solidly built and comfortable so that the animals are kept clean, dry and free of lesions.
Passed in April 2016, the rule was originally set to take effect on March 20, but because President Donald J. Trump issued a freeze on all regulatory action when he took office, agencies were told to delay finalized rules by 60 days.
The delay pushed the organic standards rule back until May 19, then a second delay pushed it to Nov. 14. The latest delay will set the implementation of the rule back to May 14, 2018.
The Organic Trade Association filed a lawsuit against the USDA in September for delaying the rule. According to the group, the issue of delaying final rules is subject to public comment under the Administrative Procedure Act.
In a statement this week, the group said they will continue to fight the delays.
“Any steps by USDA to unwind the changes to federal organic regulations are being taken against a backdrop of nearly universal support among the organic community, animal welfare advocates and consumers for the rules that USDA has now rejected,” the association said.
“We will continue this fight in the court, where a federal judge will now evaluate whether the Administration has wrongly ignored the laws that require consultation with the National Organic Standards Board and those requiring informing the public and providing consumers a chance to comment on organic policies, before they take effect.”