Legislation Introduced To Fix 'Organic' Feed Rider

March 4, 2003

2 Min Read
Legislation Introduced To Fix 'Organic' Feed Rider

WASHINGTON--Legislation was introduced in both the Senate and House to repeal a portion of the Omnibus Appropriations Act that would allow livestock not fed 100-percent organic feed to be sold as "organic." Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) sponsored The Organic Restoration Act (S.457); Reps. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) and Ron Kind (D-Wis.) introduced counterpart legislation in the House. Since its introduction on Feb. 26, the Senate bill has picked up 52 cosponsors.

"A strong bipartisan coalition is rapidly coming together to repeal this rider," Leahy said. "This kind of momentum will help us fix this problem sooner rather than later. Sooner is better, in the interest of maintaining the credibility of the new organic standards and labeling program."

Section 771 of the Omnibus Appropriations Act, passed Feb. 14, allows livestock producers to certify and label meat and dairy products as "organic," even if the animals were not fed 100-percent organic feed, as required under the National Organic Program. The language was introduced as a rider after the meeting of the House-Senate conference committee, and would prohibit the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from enforcing the 100-percent organic feed requirement unless the Secretary of Agriculture confirms organically produced feed is commercially available at no more than twice the cost of conventionally produced feed to meet current market demand.

Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman released a statement Feb. 26 reinforcing her commitment to a strong organic program. "I am concerned that the language inserted in the Omnibus Appropriations Act could weaken the National Organic Program," she said. "It is important to maintain a strong organic program . [and] I support bipartisan efforts to ensure those USDA standards remain in place."

The Organic Trade Association (OTA), which originally drew industry attention to the rider, said it is pleased with the efforts by Congress and Veneman to support the existing organic standards. "OTA applauds those within Congress who have already signed on as co-sponsors of the bill and urges others who have not yet shown their support to do so," said Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of OTA (www.ota.com). "The organic industry is pleased that Secretary Veneman has expressed the administration's support for retailing strong organic standards. It took years of work on both the part of the organic community and [USDA] to develop these strict standards, and it is gratifying to have the secretary of agriculture recognize the value of that."

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