exactly do you mean by pasture?
The Board is seeking comments on the proposed
clarifications to the definition of pasture. In
particular, it would like greater specificity
on what constitutes “significant portion
of the total feed,” and any species-specific
guidelines that may be suitable for a program
that is national in scope.
Send comments to:
Ms. Francine Torres, USDA-AMS-TMP-NOP,
1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Room 4008-So, AG
Stop 0268, Washington, D.C. 20250-0200; or by
fax to (202) 205-7808; or by e-mail to
email@example.com by close of business
February 22, 2005. For more information, call
February 10, 2005: In January, the USDA
National Organic Program (NOP) asked the National Organic
Standards Board (NOSB) to provide guidance concerning the
pasture requirements of the National Organic Program regulations.
The NOP has indicated that once adopted by the NOSB, the guidance
document will be distributed to accredited certifying agents
and posted on the NOP website.
At this stage, the NOSB Livestock Committee has met, drawn
up its recommendations, and posted a draft for public comment
(Go to the NOSB page, then open the Meeting Book for the February
meeting.) The Livestock Committee’s recommendations
are based on the NOSB’s June 2000 and October 2001 pasture
recommendations and the standards currently required under
The NOP Final Rule defines “pasture” as “land
used for livestock grazing that is managed to provide feed
value and maintain or improve soil, water, and vegetative
resources” (7 CFR 205.2).
Pasture for ruminants is required under the Livestock Health
Care Practice Standard (7 CFR 205.238) and under Livestock
Living Conditions (7 CFR 239). However, the Final Rule does
allow for temporary confinement in certain circumstances,
including certain stages of production. The committee’s
recommendations provide additional guidance on the meaning
of "temporary confinement" and "stage of production."
As stated in the October 2001 NOSB recommendation, requiring
pasture for ruminants ensures that organic production systems:
provide living conditions in which animals can satisfy their
natural behavior patterns; emphasize preventative measures
for animal health care; and answer consumer expectations of
humane animal management.
Organic pasture management reflects a synthesis of crop and
livestock production principles that works from the soil up
to promote an interdependent community of plants and ruminants.
Organically managed pasture should produce the quantity and
quality of edible plants suitable to the species, stage of
production, and number of animals. Access to pasture assures
a relationship between the animal and land that satisfies
both organic principles and international standards for organic
The Livestock Committee recommendations
In its draft guidelines released for public comment the NOSB
Livestock Committee recommends the following:
1. Organic System Plan
Ruminant livestock shall graze pasture during the months
of the year when pasture can provide edible forage. The grazed
feed must provide a significant portion of the total feed
requirements. The Organic System Plan shall include a timeline
showing how the producer will work to maximize the pasture
component of total feed used in the farm system. For livestock
operations with ruminant animals, the operation’s Organic
System Plan shall describe: a) the amount of pasture provided
per animal; b) the average amount of time animals are grazed
on a daily basis; c) the portion of the total feed requirement
that will be provided from pasture; d) circumstances under
which animals will be temporarily confined; and e) the records
that are maintained to demonstrate compliance with pasture
2. Temporary Confinement
Temporary confinement means the period of time when ruminant
livestock are denied pasture. The length of temporary confinement
will vary according to the conditions on which it is based
(such as the duration of inclement weather) and instances
of temporary confinement shall be the minimum time necessary.
In no case shall temporary confinement be allowed as a continuous
production system. All instances of temporary confinement
shall be documented in the Organic System Plan and in records
maintained by the operation.
Temporary confinement is allowed only in the following situations:
- During periods of inclement weather, such as severe weather
occurring over a period of a few days during the grazing
- Conditions under which the health, safety, or well being
of an individual animal could be jeopardized, including
to restore the health of an individual animal or to prevent
the spread of disease from an infected animal to other animals;
- To protect soil or water quality; or
- During a stage of production:
- For ruminants, a “stage of production”
that warrants temporary confinement from pasture include:
a) birthing; b) dairy animals up to 6 months of age
and c) beef animals during the final finishing stage,
not to exceed 120 days .
- Lactation of dairy animals is not a stage of production
under which animals may be denied pasture for grazing.
The NOSB will consider the Livestock Committee's pasture
draft when it meets February 28-March 3 in Washington, D.C.
The Board is seeking comments on the proposed clarifications
to the definition of pasture. In particular, it would like
greater specificity on what constitutes “significant
portion of the total feed,” and any species-specific
guidelines that may be suitable for a program that is national
To be most helpful, comments calling for specific maximum
stocking rates or minimum average nutrients from pasture need
to be national in scope and applicability. They also need
to be backed by scientific data, such as might be found in
Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) practice standards
or in ruminant livestock textbooks.
Comments on the draft, and other topics on the NOSB agenda,
may be submitted to Ms. Francine Torres, USDA-AMS-TMP-NOP,
1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Room 4008-So, AG Stop 0268,
Washington, D.C. 20250-0200; or by fax to (202) 205-7808;
or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
by close of business February 22, 2005. For more information,
call (202) 720-3252.
Comments can also be made to the board in person at the NOSB
February/March meeting at The Washington Terrace Hotel, 1515
Rhode Island Avenue, NW in Washington, D.C. Comment periods
are scheduled for the mornings of March 1 and March 3. While
not necessary, interested parties are encouraged to notify
the NOP through Ms. Torres of their desire to speak. Torres
can be reached at email@example.com.
Each speaker will be given five minutes.
Jim Riddle serves as chair of the USDA’s National
Organic Standards Board and organic policy advisor for NewFarm.org.
He was the founding chair of the Independent Organic Inspectors