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USDA/AMS RIN: 0581-AC57 Publication ID: Fall 2009 
Title: National Organic Program: Access to Pasture 
Abstract: The National Organic Program (NOP) is administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). Under the NOP, AMS established national standards for the production and handling of organically produced agricultural products. Since implementation of the NOP, some members of the public have advocated for a more explicit regulatory standard on the relationship between livestock, particularly dairy animals, and grazing land. They have asserted the current regulatory language on access to pasture for ruminants and temporary confinement based on an animal's stage of production, when applied together, do not provide a uniform requirement for the pasturing of ruminant animals that meet the principles underlying an organic management system for livestock and livestock products that consumers expect. Comments received as a result of the proposed rule will assist in determining the Agency's next steps in rulemaking on this issue. 
Agency: Department of Agriculture(USDA)  Priority: Other Significant 
RIN Status: Previously published in the Unified Agenda Agenda Stage of Rulemaking: Final Rule Stage 
Major: No  Unfunded Mandates: No 
CFR Citation: 7 CFR 205   
Legal Authority: 7 USC 6501 et seq   
Legal Deadline:  None

Statement of Need: AMS has determined that current regulations regarding access to pasture and the contribution of grazing to the diet of organically raised livestock lack sufficient specificity and clarity to enable AMS to efficiently administer the Program. Organic System Plans (OSPs) dealing with livestock management reflect different application of existing regulations and interpretations of requirements across Accredited Certifying Agents (ACAs). AMS has received 11 complaints requesting enforcement actions for alleged violations of the pasture provisions of the NOP livestock standards. Furthermore, over the period 1994 to 2005, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) made six recommendations regarding access to the outdoors for livestock, pasture, and conditions for temporary confinement of animals. The NOSB process for the development of recommendations consists of: (1) identification of a need by members of the public, the NOSB, or the NOP; (2) development of a draft NOSB recommendation; (3) public meeting notice published by the NOP on its website and in the Federal Register; (4) solicitation of public comments on the recommendation through and at the NOSBís public meetings; (5) finalization of the recommendation; (6) NOSB approval of the recommendation; and (7) NOSB referral to the Secretary for the Secretaryís consideration and any appropriate action (e.g., rulemaking, policy development, guidance). In response, on April 13, 2006, NOP published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) (71 FR 19131) seeking input on the role of pasture in the NOP regulations and what parts of the NOP regulations should be amended to address the role of pasture in organic livestock management. More than 80,500 comments were received on the ANPRM. Support for strict standards and greater detail on the role of pasture in organic livestock production was nearly unanimous with just 28 of the comments opposing changes to the pasture requirements. Organic consumers have clearly stated in comments that they expect organic ruminants to graze pasture and receive not less than 30 percent of their Dry Matter Intake (DMI) needs from grazing. Nearly all of the over 80,500 comments were received from consumers requesting regulations that would clearly establish grazing as a primary source of nourishment. Approximately 80,250 of these comments were in a modified form letter. Many of these consumers requested that grazing account for at least 30 percent of the ruminantís DMI needs. AMS published a proposed rule with a request for comment on October 24, 2008. The comment period ended December 23, 2008. AMS received more than 80,000 comments. Due to the high volume of comments received, final action on this rule is not expected before December 2009.

Summary of the Legal Basis: The NOP is authorized by the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA), as amended (7 U.S.C. section 6501 et. seq.). The AMS administers the NOP. Under the NOP, AMS oversees national standards for the production and handling of organically produced agricultural products. This action is being taken by AMS to ensure that NOP livestock production regulations have sufficient specificity and clarity to enable AMS and accredited certifying agents to efficiently administer the NOP and to facilitate and improve compliance and enforcement. This action is also intended to satisfy consumer expectations that ruminant livestock animals graze pastures during the growing season.

Alternatives: Alternatives to this proposed rulemaking are to: (1) Make no changes to the existing regulations; (2) adopt a reduced pasturing period, such as the 120-day minimum period recommended by the NOSB and some commenters; or (3) adopt a three ruminants per acre stocking rate measure as suggested by some commenters.

Anticipated Costs and Benefits: Costs: This action will increase the cost of production for producers who currently do not pasture their animals and those producers who do not manage their pastures at a sufficient level to provide at least 30 percent DMI. For organic slaughter stock producers, an increase in costs might result in a greater volume of slaughter animals, at least in the short term, entering the market driving down prices. Longer term these increased costs could result in increased consumer prices unless the increased costs are off set by reductions in other costs of production. Other costs of production that could be expected to go down are costs associated with producer harvest and purchase of feed and the cost of herd health. Benefits: This final rule brings uniformity in application to the livestock regulations; especially as they relate to the pasturing of ruminants. This uniformity will create equitable, consistent, performance standards for all ruminant livestock producers. Producers who currently operate based on grazing will perceive a benefit because these producers claim an economic disadvantage in competing with livestock operations that do not provide pasture. This proposed rule would also bring uniformity in application to the livestock regulations. This uniformity in application will allow the ACAs and AMS to administer the livestock regulations in a way that reflects consumer preferences regarding the production of organic livestock and their products. Commenters have clearly stated that they expect organic ruminants to graze pasture and receive not less than 30 percent of their dry matter needs from grazing. Because of this, it is crucial that consumer expectations are met. This proposed rulemaking is intended to reflect consumer expectations and producer perspectives. This action makes clear what access to pasture means under the NOP.

Risks: None.

Action Date FR Cite
ANPRM  04/13/2006  71 FR 19131   
ANPRM Comment Period End  06/12/2006    
NPRM  10/24/2008  73 FR 63583   
NPRM Comment Period End  12/23/2008    
Final Action  12/00/2009    
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: Yes  Government Levels Affected: Federal, Local, State 
Small Entities Affected: Businesses, Governmental Jurisdictions, Organizations  Federalism: No 
Included in the Regulatory Plan: Yes 
RIN Data Printed in the FR: Yes 
Agency Contact:
Richard H. Mathews
Chief of Standards Development and Review Branch
Department of Agriculture
Agricultural Marketing Service
Rm. 2510-South, 1400 Independence Avenue SW,
Washington, DC 20250
Phone:202 720-3252
Fax:202 205-7808

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