USDA’s Phony ‘Animal Welfare’ Rule and Different Shenanigans

USDA’s Phony ‘Animal Welfare’ Rule and Different Shenanigans


At a time when natural farmers are going out of enterprise and being devoured up by company agribusinesses by the a whole lot,1 draft regulation2,3,4 at the moment into consideration would legalize manufacturing unit farm circumstances for natural chickens, thereby pushing much more of the smaller natural farmers out.

Whereas the proposed rule claims to guard and enhance “animal welfare,” all it is going to accomplish is the additional destruction of unbiased natural farmers who do issues proper and subsequently can not compete with “natural” mega-corporations that may promote their meals at far decrease costs as a result of they cheat on the natural requirements.

There Are Two Sorts of Natural

In line with U.S. Division of Agriculture’s Nationwide Agricultural Statistics Service, in 2019, 9 organic-certified corporate-owned confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in Texas produced 1.5 occasions extra “natural” milk than all 530 family-owned natural dairy farms in Wisconsin mixed.5

As of 2021, there are 13 company dairies in Texas with natural certification, and so they’re producing 2.8 occasions extra “natural” milk than the remaining 407 natural household farms in Wisconsin.6 In these two years, 123 household farms went out of enterprise in Wisconsin, as did a whole lot extra in different states.

When small natural farms exit of enterprise, it’s not simply that household that loses one thing. Shoppers additionally lose. They lose entry to genuine natural milk that meets their environmental expectations, and so they’re deceived, as a result of they assume the upper worth they pay gives financial justice and reward for farmers who’re doing issues proper.

In the meantime, a lot of the natural milk obtainable comes from CAFOs which have wherever from 10,000 to twenty,000 cows, with a density of 5 to 10 cows per acre, that roam in desert circumstances.7 The scene on these manufacturing unit farms is as removed from idyllic farm life as you will get.

Not like on a household farm, these CAFO cows don’t graze on grass in pasture. Relatively, pasture grass is reduce after which fed to the cows, as proven beneath. When precise pasture dimension is taken into account, the efficient stocking stage might be as excessive as 20 cows per acre, whereas household farms sometimes present 1 acre per cow.8

cafo cows grass pasture

Business Watchdog Points Warning

In line with the Natural Commerce Affiliation (OTA), the regulation is “the primary important motion on natural animal welfare in years.” The Humane Society Legislative Fund has additionally hailed the proposed guidelines as “a landmark federal regulation.”9

Mark Kastel, government director of OrganicEye, an natural business watchdog, vehemently disagrees, saying that somewhat than strengthening the natural label, the brand new rules will undermine it additional by completely codifying practices that violate the spirit of organics, and even the present letter of the regulation.

“Organics was alleged to be the antidote to the ‘get huge or get out’ draconian agribusiness domination of our meals provide,” Kastel writes.10 As an alternative, natural firms have been acquired by typical producers that slowly however absolutely have eroded natural requirements by means of willful violations and lobbying.

Consequently, 90% of “natural” eggs now come from gigantic confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) owned by the most important suppliers of typical eggs, and most licensed natural rooster comes from firms that increase birds in near-total confinement and feed them imported grains which will or will not be really natural, as natural grain fraud is now commonplace.

Legalizing Violations of the Natural Spirit

In a letter to members, Kastel writes:11

“For a lot of the final decade and a half, stakeholders within the natural business have alleged that the most important egg firms in the US have been working mammoth livestock factories, with the USDA illegally granting natural certification.

In 2022, the company launched a brand new draft rule which they purport will deliver these operations into compliance, guarantee a stage enjoying discipline for opponents, and meet shopper expectations …

Apart from family-scale farms producing licensed natural eggs, the vast majority of manufacturing takes place on industrial operations — generally with 20,000-30,000 birds per constructing — with a few of the largest typical egg entrepreneurs within the nation working licensed natural homes with as many as 200,000 chickens per constructing and over 1,000,000 birds on particular person ‘farms’ …

The business’s most vocal watchdog, OrganicEye, has vociferously criticized the proposed rules as a giveaway to company agribusiness pursuits, codifying the persevering with violations of the spirit and letter of the regulation by failing to guarantee that organically managed animals have official entry to the outside and are capable of exhibit their pure instinctual behaviors, each necessities of the present statute and rules.”

Proposed Requirements Hardly Enshrine Animal Welfare

In line with OrganicEye’s evaluation, the proposed new natural rule would enable natural poultry farmers to stack birds in multitiered aviaries stretching from ground to ceiling, offering as little as 1 sq. foot of area per animal, and that’s together with outside porches, which have restricted entry.

The next picture was supplied by OrganicEye for instance of what this “natural” CAFO setup appears like.

example of organic cafo setup

Outside necessities aren’t any higher — simply 1 to 2 sq. toes relying on the load of the birds. For comparability, farmers who’re a part of the Natural Valley cooperative should present not less than 5 sq. toes per hen, and European natural rules require 43 sq. toes per chook.12

The draft rule additionally permits egg-laying hens to be confined for the primary 16 to 21 weeks of their life. After this a lot time spent in indoor confinement, many chickens are too frightened to ever enterprise outdoors. They’ve principally been skilled to not roam. The scenario is even worse for broiler chickens, which might be confined till only one or two weeks earlier than their scheduled slaughter.

What’s extra, the brand new guidelines would enable for half the outside space to be lined in both concrete or gravel. “How are the birds going to interact of their pure instinctual habits — foraging, consuming grass, scratching and pecking for bugs and worms — on concrete?” Kastel asks.

Proposed Rule Fulfills Company Lobbyists Want-Checklist

As famous by OrganicEye, these “anemic necessities” are “straight from the want listing of company lobbyists.”13 Certainly, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack himself is a former million-dollar-a-year agribusiness lobbyist who was named BIO Governor of the 12 months in 2001 by the Biotechnology Business Group (BIO) “for his assist of the business’s financial progress and agricultural biotechnology analysis.”14

So, Vilsack is hardly a champion for true natural farming, and the USDA’s failure to uphold the integrity of the natural requirements below his stewardship15 highlights his company Large-Ag, biotech biases, as does his selection of members to the Nationwide Natural Requirements Board (NOSB).

The NOSB is meant to be a highly-diversified physique of business stakeholders, together with natural farmers and shopper advocates, however opposite to that constitution, not less than 80% of present board members at the moment are affiliated with the business’s strongest lobbying group, the OTA.16,17 In line with Kastel:18

“The OTA has spent years, and invested untold company dues, in honing the persona that it’s a tax-exempt nonprofit group working within the curiosity of the general public when, in truth, it’s a ruthless business foyer group that has crossed swords with the nonprofit group on nearly each controversial situation earlier than the NOSB.”

A number of nonetheless independently-owned natural manufacturers, resembling Nature’s Path, Nutiva and Dr. Bronner’s, have resigned their memberships within the OTA in protest of its Large Ag bias.19

Below Vilsack, the NOSB was additionally stripped of its capability to set its personal agenda. It’s alleged to work independently, however as small natural farmers have been purchased up by giant typical ag conglomerates,20 the company dominance over the NOSB has additionally grown and natural requirements have been watered down to learn the most important of those company “natural” producers.

An Affront to Natural Shoppers

OrganicEye describes the proposed guidelines as “an affront to customers who’re prepared to pay a premium to assist really humane therapy of animals and to safe nutrient-dense and extra flavorful meals for his or her households.”21 Kastel provides:

“It’s Orwellian doublespeak, deliberately deceptive the general public, for the USDA to assert that these proposed guidelines are going to enhance the established order of manufacturing unit farm manufacturing at the moment dominating natural livestock, or that they characterize the expectations of customers.”

OrganicEye board president Jim Gerritsen, an authorized natural farmer in Maine, additionally acknowledged:

“Whereas USDA ought to be codifying the improved welfare of livestock, and growing natural integrity, this misguided proposed rule sadly does neither. Relatively, it enshrines the very practices which have allowed industrial manufacturing unit farms to maneuver in, take over, and push out hard-working natural household farms.”

A Name to Motion

OrganicEye is now renewing its name to the USDA to implement present natural rules and is urging natural customers and supporters to attraction to President Biden to intervene and cease this newest “giveaway to company lobbyists.”

Natural rules already mandate outside entry for all livestock, together with pasture entry for grass fed cows and different ruminants. Importantly, organically raised animals should, by regulation, have the chance to specific their pure instinctual behaviors.

The issue is these guidelines will not be being enforced, and the reply to nonenforcement shouldn’t be new rules that merely codify the violations and abuses which might be already going down on industrial-scale “natural farms.”

OrganicEye has created a proxy letter you may obtain right here. Merely print it out, signal it, add any private feedback on the again, and mail it to OrganicEye. They’ll ship the letters to Biden’s workplace. As famous in that letter:

“A brand new method must be developed as a substitute for the tens of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} at the moment spent on annual inspections. The huge preponderance of documented fraud — what we assume is just the tip of the iceberg — is being found by OrganicEye and others outdoors of the certification/inspection course of.

Assets ought to be targeted on hiring skilled agriculturalists/forensic accountants for extra complete/periodic audits (punctuated with liberal unannounced inspections and testing).

The division must prioritize listening to the NGO group somewhat than company lobbyists who’ve been appointed to key management positions on the USDA and on the NOSB.”