MOSA provides our clients with much more than just certification.

Joe Pedretti

MOSA Client Services Director

​Certification Policy Update- Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Final Rule

Certification Policy Update

Jackie DeMinter, Certification Policy Manager

Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Final Rule Published! The organic industry has long anticipated the publication of this final “animal welfare” rule. The implementation of new clarifying rule language is important to strengthen the organic regulations and enable consistency among certification agencies and certified operations. This new rule amends the organic livestock and poultry production requirements by adding new provisions for livestock handling, transport for slaughter, avian living conditions, and expands and clarifies existing requirements covering livestock care, production practices, and mammalian living conditions. We offered comments to the National Organic Program (NOP) during the public comment period and are pleased to see many of the edits we suggested in the final rule. We’ll do our best to enforce the new regulations in a practical and consistent manner.

Does this action apply to you? You may be affected by this action if you are either certified organic or considering certification and are are engaged in the meat, egg, poultry, dairy, or animal fiber industries. MOSA’s plans to implement the new rule are unfolding as this newsletter is going to print. Livestock producers can expect to hear more from us in the coming weeks. You can expect that we’ll need to collect and review new and revised Organic System Plan information. Certification Specialists and Inspectors will be working with you as the year progresses to ensure that we have complete and adequate new and updated information regarding your livestock operation. We will keep you informed!

Important dates to remember. The rule, published in the Federal Register on January 19, 2017, was originally set to take effect on March 20, 2017, however since then the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has delayed the effective date of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule by 60 days to May 19, 2017. These actions are being taken in accordance with the regulatory freeze to enable the new administration time to review all pending actions. This rule has a one year implementation time period and is set to be fully implemented on March 20, 2018, with two exceptions: (1) Organic egg operations that are certified before March 20, 2020 need to implement the outdoor access requirements by March 21, 2022. Organic egg operations that become certified after March 20, 2020 need to comply with the outdoor access requirements in order to obtain certification. (2) Organic broiler operations must fully implement the indoor space requirements by March 20, 2020. Note that the implementation dates will also be adjusted to May appropriately to align with the effective date delay.

Where can you find reference materials? The NOP WEBSITE - contains a complete and informative set of reference materials. The NOP is also planning four regional informational sessions in Pennsylvania, California, Iowa, and Texas. Please check the NOP and MOSA websites regularly for updates.

Now about the rule! Simply put, this rule is intended to:

  • Clarify how producers and handlers must treat livestock and poultry to ensure their health and well-being throughout life, including transport and slaughter.
  • Specify which physical alterations are allowed and prohibited in organic livestock and poultry production.
  • Establish minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for poultry.

Read on for a summary of the most impactful changes. Current rule requirements will also continue to apply.

  • This final rule adds sixteen new terms to §205.2: beak trimming, caponization, cattle wattling, de-beaking, de-snooding, dubbing, indoors or indoor space, mulesing, non-ambulatory, outdoors or outdoor space, perch, pullet, ritual slaughter, soil, toe clipping, and vegetation. Of these, noteworthy are: beak trimming which allows for trimming of no more than ¼-⅓ of upper and lower beaks; indoors which is inside the building and includes mobile housing, aviary housing, slatted/mesh floor housing, and floor litter housing, and outdoors which means outside, includes pasture pens for pastured poultry, clarifies the outdoor area can have a roof so long as the area is always open to the outside, and stipulates that soil and vegetation are required.
  • The rule clarifies how producers and handlers must treat livestock and poultry to ensure their wellbeing. The feed ration must result in appropriate body condition. Lameness monitoring and records are required. A written parasite management plan is required and preventative measures must be part of the plan. Producers must also have written plans for humane euthanasia for sick or injured livestock. Suffocation, a manual blow to the head by a blunt instrument or manual blunt force trauma, and use of equipment to crush the neck, including killing pliers or Burdizzo clamps, are all prohibited.
  • Over a 24 hour period, housing for animals (not poultry) must provide sufficient space to lie down, turn around, stand up, fully stretch, and express normal behavior (continuous confinement to tie stalls and stanchions is not allowed). If indoor housing is provided (not required), it must be bedded and sufficiently large to provide for comfortable areas for resting. Dairy calves can be individually housed until weaning is complete, but no older than 6 months. Dairy calf pens must provide calves enough room to turn around, lie down, stretch out lying down, get up, rest, groom, and be located so that calves can see, smell and hear other calves. In any stall housing, there must be enough stalls for the animals to exhibit natural behaviors. For group housed cattle, bedded packs, compost packs, tie-stalls, free-stalls and stanchion barns are all acceptable as part of the overall housing plan. Outdoor space must be provided year round as appropriate and when the outdoors includes soil, vegetation must be maximized.
  • Hogs must be group housed except for farrowing/suckling sows, boars, and hogs with documented instances of aggression or recovery from an illness. Piglets must never be in flat decks or cages. Rooting materials must be available inside and outside, except during the farrowing and suckling period. For group housed swine, it is permissible to have less feeding stalls than the number of animals, but animals must all eat sufficiently over a 24 hour period.
  • This rule clarifies when and how certain physical alterations may be performed on organic livestock and poultry in order to minimize stress. Additionally, some forms of physical alterations are prohibited. Needle teeth clipping and tail docking of pigs are allowed only when alternative methods to prevent harm fail. Documentation of failed methods is required. No more than the top ⅓ of the tooth can be clipped. In poultry, beak trimming after 10 days of age is prohibited.
  • A new Avian Living Conditions section has been added which includes the same basic principles as the current Livestock Living Conditions section. This new poultry specific section includes year round living conditions to accommodate the natural behaviors of poultry including outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, direct sunlight, clean water, materials for dust bathing, and adequate outside space. The same basic reasons for temporary confinement apply and the indoors must be sufficiently spacious to allow all birds to move freely, stretch their wings, stand normally and engage in natural behaviors. Producers must monitor ammonia levels at least monthly and levels must be kept below 10 ppm and must not exceed 25 ppm. Producer monitoring plans are required. For layers and fully feathered birds (pullets), artificial light can be used up to 16 hrs of light a day and, if provided, light intensity must be lowered gradually. Natural light must be sufficient inside on a sunny day so an inspector can read and write when all lights are turned off.
  • Housing must provide exit areas sufficient in number and distributed appropriately to ensure all birds have ready access to the outdoors. Six inches of perch space per layer is required and may include the alighting rail in front of nest boxes. All layers must be able to perch at the same time, except in aviary housing where only 55% of the birds must be able to perch at the same time. All birds must have access to areas for scratching and dust bathing. Litter must be provided and be maintained in a dry condition. Houses with slatted/mesh floors must have 30% solid floor available with sufficient litter for dust bathing without crowding.
  • Maximum indoor stocking densities have been established, which vary depending on the type of production and stage of life. Calculations are based on the weight of the bird. Indoor area may include all flat areas available to the birds, excluding nest boxes, and may include enclosed porches and other structures as long as the birds always have access to the space, including during temporary confinement.
  • Indoors for layers =
    • Mobile housing = 4.5 lbs/sq ft
    • Aviary housing = 4.5 lbs/sq ft
    • Slatted/mesh floor = 3.75 lbs/sq ft
    • Floor litter housing = 3 lbs/sq ft
    • Other housing = 2.25 lbs/sq ft
  • Indoors for pullets = 3 lbs/sq ft
  • Indoors for broilers = 5 lbs/sq ft
  • Maximum outdoor densities have also been established for organic chickens and vary depending on the type of production and stage of life. Calculations are based on the weight of the bird. Access to outdoors and door spacing must encourage access for all birds on a daily basis, and access must be provided at a young age to train birds to go outside. The outdoors must be at least 50% soil with maximal vegetation cover as appropriate for the season, climate, location, type of poultry and stage of production. Shade can be provided and can include covered structures, like a porch with the screens removed, allowing birds free access to soil and vegetation.
    • Outdoors for layers = 2.25 lbs/sq ft
    • Outdoors for pullets = 3 lbs/sq ft
    • Outdoors for broilers = 5 lbs/sq ft
  • AMS has only established indoor space requirements for chickens in this final rule and may propose space requirements for other avian species in the future. Other avian species must meet all other indoor requirements including exit doors, ammonia levels, and lighting.
  • Birds may be temporarily confined because of inclement weather, including air temperatures under 40 and over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, broilers to 4 weeks and pullets to 16 weeks, until birds are fully feathered, under conditions which jeopardize health, safety or well being, when there is a risk to soil or water quality, including reseeding the outside space to establish vegetation, and for preventative health care practices or injury. Birds may be confined for sorting or shipping for sale and for nest box training, up to five weeks and for fairs, 4-H/FFA, or other youth projects. Birds can be sold as certified organic if their organic management is maintained at youth events. In all cases, manure must be managed so that it does not contribute to contamination of natural resources.
  • For all livestock, the final rule adds new requirements for transporting organic livestock and poultry to sale or slaughter. During transportation, animals must be clearly identified as organic and identity traceable. Livestock must be fit for transport and slaughter and calves must have a dry navel cord and stand/walk without human assistance. Non-ambulatory animals must not be transported for sale or slaughter. Such animals may be treated or euthanized. When in transport, adequate and season appropriate ventilation is required. Clean dry bedding can be provided and if it’s agricultural, it must be organic. If animals are offloaded for feed or water for travel times exceeding 12 hours as required, the site must be certified organic. Whomever is responsible for overseeing transport must provide records to demonstrate that transport times are not detrimental to the welfare of animals. Whomever is responsible for overseeing transport must have an emergency plan in place to adequately address any possible animal welfare problems that may occur. All slaughter facilities must follow all USDA Food Safety and Inspection and provide any records showing noncompliances from regulatory agencies including resolution actions.

Clients and applicants will receive a copy of the complete final rule once the new rule is effective, planned for May 19, 2017.

USDA Announces 2017 Sunset Review Proposed Rule - The USDA published a proposed rule to implement the 2017 sunset review recommendations of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The rule would remove three synthetic substances (lignin sulfonate -as a floatation aid, furosemide, and magnesium carbonate) and eight nonorganic agriculturals (chia, dillweed oil, frozen galangal, inulin, frozen lemongrass, chipotle chile peppers, turkish bay leaves, and whey protein concentrate) from the National List. Public comments will be accepted until March 20th at:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal:
  • Mail: Robert Pooler, Standards Division, National Organic Program, USDA-AMS-NOP, 1400 Independence Ave. SW., Room 2642-So., Ag Stop 0268, Washington, DC 20250-0268.

Upon removal from the National List, use of the 11 substances in organic production or handling would be prohibited. The prohibitions would take effect on the sunset date of June 27, 2017.

USDA publishes FINAL guidance on the Classification of Materials and Materials Allowed for Use in Organic Crop Production! This is a step toward clarifying the complex world of materials review. The final guidance for Classification of Materials (NOP 5033) clarifies existing practices used to classify materials as agricultural or nonagricultural and synthetic or nonsynthetic. Materials for Organic Crop Production (NOP 5034) provides a list of input materials which are allowed in organic crop production and a list of materials that are specifically prohibited in organic crop production. The goal of the final guidance is to bring about additional clarity and consistency in crop materials review. Guidance can be found in the National Organic Program Handbook.

USDA publishes DRAFT guidance on Calculating the Percentage of Organic Ingredients in Multi-Ingredient Products (NOP 5037). Draft guidance aims to clarify the standards for calculating organic percentages for finished products, including multi-ingredient products that contain ingredients that are composed of more than one ingredient. The guidance also helps with determining the organic content of single raw and processed ingredients, exclusion of water and salt from ingredients, and calculation of organic content in carbonated beverages. Public comments were due on February 6th. Draft guidance is available in the National Organic Program Handbook.

Proposed Organic Research, Promotion, and Information Order open for comments! The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking comments on a proposal for a new research and promotion program. The proposed rule covers certified organic products including a range of agricultural commodities, such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, poultry, breads, grains, snack foods, condiments, beverages, and packaged and prepared foods. It also includes non-food items, such as textiles, personal care products, pet food, and flowers. Organic imports - both those certified under the USDA organic regulations and those entering the U.S. under an organic equivalency arrangement - are also covered.

The "Organic Research, Promotion, and Information Order" proposed rule and its accompanying proposed referendum procedures are available in the Federal Register. Public comments on these Proposed Rules will be accepted until March 20, 2017; submit your comments through, under docket number AMS-SC-16-0112 or by mail to the Promotion and Economics Division, Specialty Crops Program, AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Room 1406-S, Stop 0244, Washington, DC 20250-0244; facsimile: (202) 205-2800. Complete resources are available on the Research and Promotion Program Webpage.

Remember to visit the MOSA website regularly to check for updated News & Commentary!