New organic rules guarantee pasture for grazers (2008)

The USDA has released new regulations on access to pasture for organic animals. If the regulations are enacted, producers will be required to give ruminant animals, such as cows, access to pasture and to meet other requirements in order to sell the products from these animals as organic. In the past, some large dairy operations evaded the pasture requirement by exploiting a loophole in the rule to deny animals access to pasture while they were lactatingwhich for dairy cows was most of their lives. This rule clarifies that lactating animals must receive access to pasture and that with few exceptions pasture access must be given year-round. It further requires that pasture be incorporated into producers' organic system plan just as other crops are. The detail provided by the new rule will make it easier for certifying agents to ensure that regulations are being followed. The agency is accepting public comments on the rule until December 23.

"Consumers deserve to know that food with an organic label came from animals that were raised in accordance with their expectations. This rule will shore up that expectation and put some teeth into the certification process." ~ Margaret Mellon, Food & Environment Program Director, Union of Concerned Scientists