photo: J. Novak
As organic food has grown in popularity so too have the size of organic dairies and farms in this country. And in the last ten years questions have been raised about whether these large scale so-called organic dairies and farms have been abiding by all of the regulations which define them as organic in the first place. Some of the regulations themselves have been a bit gray and lacking in clarity. Issues have been specifically raised about whether enormous farms have been confining livestock excessively, without regard for the animals. Now the USDA has introduced tighter regulations to bring clarity to the amount of time organic livestock should actually be grazing.The USDA is working to clear up some questions regarding how much of an organic livestock's life should be spent grazing. This is an issue that, according to the Cornucopia Institute, was continually skirted by the Bush Administration. Now it appears that the Obama Administration is picking up the slack. The Obama Administration recently suspended Promiseland Livestock, the nation's largest organic livestock producers with over 22,000 head of cattle, for not allowing the USDA to inspect financial and organic records.
New USDA Organic Regulations
The new rules go into effect in June of this year. They state that at least 30 percent of food cows' ingest must come from grazing. If the dairy farm is located in a mild climate like California, cows will be expected to graze even more than the 120 days mandated as a minimum by law. Organic beef standards will also be tightened. Organic cattle, goats, buffalo, and sheep must be able to graze as well. Although in the last four months of life, certain diet regulations can be eliminated.