Take Action!

Take Action on Origin of Livestock

Corrections to the Origin of Livestock (OOL) Rule in organic dairy production have been called for since the beginning of the federal organic regulations in 2002.
 
Under current OOL regulations, an organic dairy farmer may be granted a one-time transition of conventional livestock into organic production, which NOFA-NY Certification allows. However, some producers – mostly large factory organic dairies have been transitioning conventionally-raised animals to organic status when they reach milking age every year, and therefore bypassing the additional costs of raising a calf organically from birth to adulthood in compliance with the NOP. 
 
The exploitation of the OOL one-time exemption has led to a lack of consistency between organic certifiers and interpretation of standards nationwide. This disadvantages all NOFA-New York organic dairy operations who adhere to the spirit and letter of the USDA NOP.
 
The biggest disadvantage to our farmers is cost. Preliminary data from Organic Valley and Cornell puts the difference in raising a conventional versus organic calf for the first year between $625 to $1200 per calf.
 
When organic milk comes into New York State processors at $20 cwt from out of state, competing with New York farmers who need ~$32 cwt just to cover cost of production. As a result, processors are dropping New York dairies in favor of cheaper, out-of-state milk, as they balance with significantly lower-cost milk from elsewhere.
 
This problem is happening throughout the Northeast, although the entire Northeast is a net deficit producer of organic milk - a potential opportunity turned sour by bad, inconsistent policy by USDA/NOP.
 
Take Action
NOFA-NY has been working hard with other states, some of our NY processors and other organic farm groups in concerted action to fix this. Language to force USDA to do its job has passed in the House Appropriations bill – now, it must pass in the Senate.
 
What you can do:
Call Senator Schumer (202.224.6542) AND Congresswoman Nita Lowey (202.225.6506). As head of the House Appropriations Committee, Congresswoman Lowey needs to make sure that the current House Language is not watered down in the Senate.
 
Here's a call script:
“I'm calling as a constituent and an organic farmer / organic consumer. I'm asking Senator Schumer / Congresswoman Lowey to protect organic dairy farmers by requiring USDA to take action on the Origin of Livestock Rule.
USDA must solve the problems in the Organic Origin of Livestock Regulations by moving forward the clarification found in the Origin of Livestock Rule proposed by USDA in 2015.
This Rule specifies clearly that the one-time herd transition exemption can only be used by a producer to initially establish an organic herd and not to continually transition conventional animals into a producer's rotation of herds.

NY Organic dairy farmers have always followed this Rule properly, and are going out of business in part due to out-of-state dairies continually transitioning conventional animals into organic.”

 
The National Organic Coalition has more background info and talking points here.

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  Kirsten E.Gillibrand (D - NY)
  478 Russell Senate Office Building
  Washington DC 20510
  (202) 224-4451
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  Charles E.Schumer (D - NY)
  322 Hart Senate Office Building
  Washington DC 20510
  (202) 224-6542
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