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 (202) 720-3252.
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 at www.ams.usda.gov/nop.
(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 NOP regulations.
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
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 livestock.
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 requirements.
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 season;
- 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 in scope.
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
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 Association