March 25, 2005:
During its meeting in Washington, D.C., Feb. 28 through Mar. 3,
the National Organic Standards Board adopted two recommendations
for changes to the NOP Final Rule and agreed to post a guidance
document for another round of public comment concerning access to
pasture for organic ruminant livestock, such as dairy cattle. The
intent of the Board is to make sure that the requirements for pasture
are clear and enforceable.
Prior to the meeting, the National Organic Program (NOP) requested
that the NOSB provide guidance concerning the pasture requirements.
The NOSB received over 8,000 comments in support of the Livestock
Committee’s draft clarifying that pasture is required for
organic ruminant animals. In addition, approximately 50 dairy farmers
from around the country attended and testified during the meeting.
To review the facts: 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
under certain circumstances.
As stated in previous NOSB recommendations, 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. Ideally, organic
pasture management should reflect a synthesis of crop and livestock
production principles that work from the soil up to promote an interdependent
community of plants and ruminants.
Recommended rule changes
In order to clarify that pasture is required during the growing
season, throughout the productive life of the animal, the NOSB recommended
the following rule changes:
- Recommended rule change for §205.239(a)(2)
The language in §205.239(a)(2) would be amended to read:
§205.239(a)(2) Access to pasture for ruminants Ruminant animals
grazing pasture during the growing season.
This includes all stages of life except:
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.
Note: Lactation of dairy animals is not a stage of life under
which animals may be denied pasture for grazing.
- Recommended rule change for 205.239(a)(1) and 205.239(b)(2)
Language within the Final Rule is ambiguous with respect to how
specific provisions apply to livestock at different stages of
life. Sections 205.239(a)(1) and 205.239(b)(2) use the term “stage
of production” with regard to access to the outdoors and
temporary confinement. Section 205.237 (a)(2), however, uses the
term “stage of life” to describe the allowance for
specific levels of feed supplements or additives.
Development of enforceable standards for “stage of production”
is problematic, particularly for dairy animals. While “life”
encompasses the total span of an animal’s life, “production”
could be understood to refer only to that portion of life during
which the animal produces milk.
The NOSB recommends a rule change to make the language in §205.239(a)(1)
and §205.239(b)(2) consistent with the language in §205.237(a)(2).
The language in §205.239(a)(1) would be amended to read,
“Access to outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh
air, and direct sunlight suitable to the species, its stage
of production life, the climate, and the environment.
The language in §205.239(b)(2) would be amended to read
“animal’s stage of production life.”
NOSB guidance on access to pasture
What follows is the NOSB's draft guidance language regarding access
to pasture for ruminant livestock. The NOSB welcomes public comment
on the draft until May 20, 2005.
Guidance for interpretation of §205.239(a)(2)
The NOSB is seeking
public comment on its “Livestock Committee Recommendation
for Guidance Pasture Requirements” until May 20,
2005. The draft guidance language is reproduced here,
or it can be downloaded from http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/TodaysNews.html
Comments can be submitted by:
- Mail: The National Organic Standards Board; c/o
Arthur Neal; Room 4008 - South Building; 1400 and
Independence Avenue, SW; Washington, D.C. 20250-0001
- E-mail: NOSB.Livestock@usda.gov
- Fax: (202) 205-7808
Comments are welcome on organic system plan requirements;
temporary confinement; and what constitutes “appropriate
pasture conditions.” In particular, the NOSB seeks
input on specific "dry matter intake from pasture"
language; reference to regional NRCS prescribed grazing
standards; and whether or not any of the text below
should be recommended to the NOP for rule changes.
Please clearly indicate if you are for or against the
Board recommendation, or some part of it, and why. Include
specific recommended wording changes as appropriate,
and feel free to include copies of articles or other
references that support your comments. Only relevant
material should be submitted.
A. Organic System Plan
Ruminant livestock shall graze pasture during the months of the
year when pasture can provide edible forage. The Organic System
Plan shall have
e goal of providing grazed feed greater than 30% dry matter intake
on a daily basis during the growing season but not less than 120
days. The Organic System Plan shall include a timeline showing how
the producer will satisfy the goal 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: 1) the amount of pasture provided per animal; 2)
the average amount of time that animals are grazed on a daily basis;
3) the portion of the total feed requirement that will be provided
from pasture; 4) circumstances under which animals will be temporarily
confined; and 5) the records that are maintained to demonstrate
compliance with pasture requirements.
B. 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
C. Appropriate Pasture Conditions
Appropriate pasture conditions shall be determined in accordance
with the regional Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation
Practice Standards for Prescribed Grazing (Code 528) for the number
of animals in the Organic Systems Plan.
Jim Riddle is chair of the National Organic Standards Board
and a regular contributor to NewFarm.org.