Defenders of organic integrity win victory for transparency and open government
Published: May 27, 2019
Category: Organic News, The Organic & Non-GMO Report Newsletter
The Federal District Court in San Francisco recently agreed with organic farmers, consumers, and animal welfare advocates that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) cannot hide communications and documents that led up to the controversial decision by the Trump administration to withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule (OLPP), which would have required animal welfare standards on farms producing organic meat.
Ten years in the making, the “Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices” rule was sought by organic producers and stakeholders to provide much-needed detail in the standards for organic livestock care, especially outdoor access for egg-laying hens and poultry. A coalition of organic stakeholders—including the National Organic Coalition of organic farmers and retailers—challenged the withdrawal of these standards as arbitrary and contrary to federal law, but USDA withheld “a voluminous number of documents” from the record. In its order, the Court held that agencies cannot hide their internal documents leading up to a decision, because these are part of the universe of materials the agency considered. USDA’s internal documents may reveal why the agency took a 180-degree turn from nearly three decades of organic policy and withdrew a rule wanted by the vast majority of the organic community.
“To ensure the integrity of the Certified Organic label, USDA must work transparently with organic stakeholders—including farmers, consumer advocacy groups, and other members of the organic industry—not keep its decision-making behind closed doors,” said Abby Youngblood, executive director at the National Organic Coalition. “The OLPP standards were a much-needed improvement to animal welfare in organic standards and had the support of thousands in the organic community; USDA’s withdrawal of that rule, as well as the lack of transparency surrounding its withdrawal, flies in the face of organic integrity.”
Source: Center for Food Safety
To view complete article, visit: