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USDA's 2002 organic rules said that dairy herds must have access to pasture. They did not say the animals had to actually be fed on pasture. This loophole is now supposed to be fixed. USDA has just issued new rules. [Curator's note: See this post by our own Barry Estabrook for more on the efforts of small farmers to fight for these new regulations.]
Starting in June, organic dairy herds must be sent to pasture for the entire grazing season of at least 120 days and must get at least 30 percent of their food from pasture during that season. Smaller organic dairy farmers are already doing this. Now the big ones will have to come into line. And about time too.
Here's how the New York Times explains this action.
Before this final rule, the Cornucopia Institute had a number of concerns (in 2008). The proposed rules were bundled together with provisions that had not been properly reviewed by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). These problems have now been solved.
Mark Kastel of the Cornucopia Institute writes:
In its final version we are virtually 100% satisfied (still doing some technical review). Even more importantly we are highly impressed by the professional approach taken by Kathleen Merrigan and the staff at the organic program as to how they plan to implement this.
He sends the Institute's most recent press release celebrating the new rules.
Score this one as a win for organic advocates!