USDA Decides Not to Impose Additional Regulatory Requirements for Organic Producers and Handlers

Monday, March 12, 2018 – 11:45am
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WASHINGTON, March 12, 2018 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the decision to withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule published on January 19, 2017. The rule would have increased federal regulation of livestock and poultry for certified organic producers and handlers. The withdrawal becomes effective May 13, 2018.

Significant policy and legal issues were identified after the rule published in January 2017. After careful review and two rounds of public comment, USDA has determined that the rule exceeds the Department’s statutory authority, and that the changes to the existing organic regulations could have a negative effect on voluntary participation in the National Organic Program, including real costs for producers and consumers.

“The existing robust organic livestock and poultry regulations are effective,” said USDA Marketing and Regulatory Program Undersecretary Greg Ibach. “The organic industry’s continued growth domestically and globally shows that consumers trust the current approach that balances consumer expectations and the needs of organic producers and handlers.”

According to USDA reports for 2017, the number of certified organic operations increased domestically by seven percent and globally by 11 percent. Industry estimates show that organic sales in the United States reached almost $47 billion in 2016, reflecting an increase of almost $3.7 billion since 2015.

The Department carefully considered public comments and the relative costs and benefits for both producers and consumers of imposing the proposed additional regulations.

More information on the OLPP final rule is available in the March 12, 2018, Federal Register, and on the USDA National Organic Program web page.

Michelle Soll of the Farm and Ranch Program spoke at the Women in Ag Conference about available assistance

Michelle-SollThis past weekend, Legal Aid of Nebraska’s Michelle Soll from the Farm and Ranch Project, spoke at the Women in Ag conference in Kearney, NE. She spoke to the attendees over Saturday brunch, highlighting the struggles she is witnessing with her work. While there, she was interviewed by the Kearney Hub about the importance of her work with the Rural Response Hotline and the Farm and Ranch Program. Find the article titled, Michelle Soll there to provide assistance, advice for Nebraska Rural Response Hotline, here.

If you need assistance or would like more information, please call the Rural Response Hotline at 1-800-464-0258.


NSAS Healthy Farms Conference- February 9th and 10th

2018: Plan to attend the Healthy Farms Conference of the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society. The dates for 2018 are February 9th and 10th and it will be held at the Cornhusker Hotel in Lincoln.


Wes Jackson;   founder and president emeritus of The Land Institute, earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Kansas Wesleyan University, Salina; a master’s degree in botany from the University of Kansas, and a doctorate in genetics from North Carolina State University. He established and served as chair of one of the country’s first environmental studies programs at California State University-Sacramento and then returned to his native Kansas to found The Land Institute in 1976. He is the author of several books, including New Roots for Agriculture, Becoming Native to This Place, Consulting the Genius of the Place, and most recently Nature as Measure. Wes is widely recognized as a leader in the international movement for a more sustainable agriculture. He was a Pew Conservation Scholar in 1990, a MacArthur Fellow in 1992, and received the Right Livelihood Award in 2000. Life magazine included him as one of 18 individuals predicted to be among the 100 important Americans of the 20th century. Smithsonian in 2005 included him as one of “35 Who Made a Difference.”

Lodging- There are several options for lodging including 2 level suites. Make reservations at 1-866-706-7706, attendees will need to ask for Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society event rate. The hotel comes with numerous family friendly options and includes a pool and workout area. The hotel will also be providing a complimentary reservation link to the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society for online reservations, coming soon.

Sessions: This year’s agenda offers a number of breakout sessions with topics ranging from farm accounting to organic row cropping and holistic orchards to sustainable vegetable production. We will also once again have a full youth program with many of the presenters being youth and presenting on projects from their farms.

Fly Management

Cover Crops

Hops Production

Holistic Management Financial Planning

HM Biological Monitoring

Grazing Cover Crops

Estate Planning for Sustainable Farms and Ranches

Budgets for small farms including veggies, fruit and small livestock

Increasing Farm Productivity

Farm Accounting

Purchasing a Small Farm


Creating diverse habitats for native wildlife and farms to coexist

Exploring New Ideas In Sustainable Agriculture

Grazing Management

Writing Grants

Pastured Hog Production

Slow Meat; a Slow Food look at sustainable meat production

And more!

 The complete list will be available on our website and will be updated as they are confirmed!

About: The Healthy Farms Conference has been hosted by NSAS for over 40 years.  From Aurora to Grand Island and Nebraska City to Columbus, the conference has laid the framework for promoting sustainable agriculture and local foods in Nebraska and the Midwest. The Healthy Farms Conference features over 20 breakout sessions aimed at equipping farmers, aspiring farmers, foodies, and advocates to with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful.  The conference also features several keynote sessions meant to inspire and motivate people to action, and that what they are doing and why they are doing it makes a difference. Together we can change the world one farmer, one eater at a time! The conference also provides support for current farmers by fostering growth and stability in sustainable farming methods, including organic agriculture and sustainable agriculture.  We do this by helping farmers to develop innovative ideas and projects that can impact their local communities and areas. A variety of interactive educational opportunities are available for adults and youth. Participants will have the chance to network with farmers, university faculty, and fellow agricultural colleagues. Besides providing informative, educational sessions the conferences has commercial and educational exhibits. The Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society has been hosting the Healthy Farms Conference for over 40 years.

Roundtable Discussions- We will once again be hosting the roundtable discussions on Saturday morning of the conference.  The format will be similar to last year, and we will set aside additional time for these discussions. Have a topic? Email William @!

NSAS Annual Awards- Each year at the Healthy Farms Conference we recognize farmers, young/beginning farmers, chefs & organizations who are making a difference.  If you would like to nominate someone please email. Nominations should include a brief message as to why this person, farm, or group should be nominated. We request that nominations be received by December 1st.

Exhibitor/Sponsor Information- There are numerous ways to participate in the conference including exhibitor and sponsor opportunities.  If you are interested please email William at

All-Nebraska events & Food!
The first and original local foods event in Nebraska. A majority of the foods for the entire conference including all meals and breaks will be sourced from NSAS members, and from local sustainable farms.  We are creating a menu unique to the season and place and welcome farmers to provide input on what products they might have available at the time to feature at the conference!

The All-Nebraska Evening will consist of a local foods dinner, a live auction fundraiser and we’ll cap the evening with local musicians providing the entertainment. February 9th

Website- Check for complete details to be updated at,
Look for the official conference brochure later this month and December complete with registration instructions and how to register online.

The Healthy Farms Conference is the annual conference of the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society.  

For information and to join please visit,

NOP Proposed New Rule on Organic Certification, Pt. 3

Happy Friday all! We close out this week with more on the NOP proposed new rules on Organic Certification. Today’s post deals with one of the biggest changes to the program – Avian living conditions – and a couple notes about transport and slaughter facilities. Again, the rule has been postponed to allow for a 30-day period for the public to comment on what action should be taken regarding the new rule. If you would like to comment on the course of action for the new rule, please visit:

The proposed final rule may be found in its entirety here:


Avian living condition rules have been changed as well. The requirement for birds to have indoor space has been removed, but shelter must still be provided. Should you choose to provide indoor space for your birds, then you must comply with the requirements for indoor space. Indoor space must be large enough so that the birds may engage in natural behaviors and move freely.

Ammonia must be monitored monthly. When ammonia levels exceed 10ppm, remediation and additional monitoring must take place. Ammonia levels are not allowed to exceed 25ppm.

Natural lighting in the indoor space must be sufficient so that an inspector is able to read and write on sunny days while any artificial lights are turned off. Artificial lights may be used to augment natural light up to a 16-hour period per day. Artificial lights must be lowered gradually to encourage birds to settle in for the night.

Space requirements are given a significant overhaul with this new rule. 6 inches of perch per laying bird is required, although the lighting rail may count towards this requirement. For indoor exits, the requirement was removed that all birds must be able to exit within one hour. The new indoor density requirements for layers must not exceed (live bird weight): (i) Mobile housing: 4.5 pounds per square foot; (ii) Aviary housing: 4.5 pounds per square foot; (iii) Slatted/mesh floor housing: 3.75 pounds per square foot; (iv) Floor litter housing: 3.0 pounds per square foot; (v) Other housing: 2.25 pounds per square foot. The indoor density for pullets must not exceed 3.0 pounds of bird per square foot. For broilers, indoor stocking density must not exceed 5.0 pounds of bird per square foot.

Outdoor space has also been given new density requirements. For layers, outdoor space must be provided at a rate of no less than one square foot for every 2.25 pounds of bird in the flock. For pullets, outdoor space must be provided at a rate of no less than one square foot for every 3.0 pounds of bird in the flock. For broilers, outdoor space must be provided at a rate of no less than one square foot for every 5.0 pounds of bird in the flock. The outdoor space must be at least 50% soil with “maximal vegetative cover”. As above, work with your certifier to ensure compliance with this requirement.

Temporary confinement for birds is also allowed in certain circumstances, such as inclement weather, certain stages of life, health and safety risks, reseeding of soil, sorting for shipping, and nest box training, among others. All temporary confinements must be recorded.


New guidelines about transport and slaughter have been established in the rule. Foremost is that organic animals must be identified as such during transport. Trailers must provide season-appropriate protection from heat and cold, and must have bedding provided for anything other than poultry crates. Organic feed and clean water must be provided every 12 hours during transport, regardless of whether the trailer is moving or not. Operations that transport organic livestock must also develop an emergency plan to address reasonably foreseeable issues during transport, such as feeding, escapees, and euthanization of injured animals during transport.

Organic certified slaughter facilities must be in compliance with the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1978. Certified facilities must also provide any documentation of FSIS noncompliance and corrective action records to certifying agents upon request.


“Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.” – Augustine “Og” Mandino

NOP New Proposed Rules Regarding Organic Certification, Pt. 2

Welcome back,

Yesterday we introduced some of the new changes that are being proposed to the organic certification requirements of the NOP. As of yesterday (5/10/17), there was a new 30-day comment window opened to take suggestions regarding the implementation of the rules.

If you would like to comment on the course of action for the new rule, please visit:

The final rule may be found here:

Today’s post discusses some highlights of the proposed changes to mammal living conditions.


Mammalian living condition rules are now separated from avian living condition rules. The rule requiring all ruminants to be able to feed simultaneously has been removed. The rule regarding livestock shelter has been revised so that livestock in shelter must be able to express normal patterns of behavior over a 24-hour period. Mammals may be contained during parts of the day for milking, etc., but must be able to move, turn, and stretch their limbs for at least part of the day.

New provisions for group housing are also included. For dairy stock, individual housing is allowed until weaning, but no longer than 6 months. Dairy young must also have room to lie down, move around, and see other animals. Swine may be individually housed in three circumstances: 1) sows may be housed individually during farrowing and suckling; 2) boars can be separated to reduce the likelihood of fights and injuries; 3) swine may be separated to recover from a documented illness, or after multiple instances of aggression. Flat decking of piglets is now prohibited. A requirement has also been added to mandate indoor and outdoor areas for rooting.

Outdoor access is now required year-round for livestock, except in cases where temporary confinement is justified, for example: nighttime confinement to protect against predators, natural or artificial breeding, or youth livestock projects, etc.. If the outdoor area contains soil, there must be maximal vegetative cover. The rule does not give clear guidance as to what “maximal vegetative cover” means in practice, so we recommend that you work closely with your certifier to ensure you are in compliance.

Good luck out there in the fields!

“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

NOP New Proposed Rule on Organic Certification

For certified organic producers and those who are seeking to become organic certified, there is a new final rule coming down the pipeline that will likely affect your operations. Among the changes are new rules regarding animal welfare, living conditions centered on outdoor access for both poultry and mammals, as well as transport and slaughter. As of May 10, 2017, the rule has been postponed to allow for a 30-day period for the public to comment on what action should be taken regarding the new rule. If you would like to comment on the course of action for the new rule, please visit:

If you believe that you may be affected by this new final rule, please take a look at the rule itself. Also, if your certifier has not reached out to you, make sure you contact them to discuss in detail all the proposed changes required for your specific operation. The final rule may be found here: Following is not a comprehensive list of changes, but some key highlights of the new rule.

The first set of major changes has to do with the definitions of certain terms. Notably, any areas that are roofed, but allow the animals to freely move from cover to the outside, may now be counted as ‘outdoor space’. The final rule will now prohibit some types of physical alterations to livestock. Therefore, eight terms have been defined in the rule to account for any local differences in the naming of certain alterations. The definition of stocking density has also been changed to be expressed in terms of pounds of bird per square foot, instead of individual birds per square foot.

Livestock Healthcare practices also see some significant changes as well. Needle teeth clipping and tail docking in pigs may no longer be performed routinely, under the new rule they may only be performed in response to a documented welfare reason, and other alternatives must have failed. For poultry, the new rule prohibits the following practices: de-beaking, de-snooding, caponization, dubbing, toe-clipping of chickens, toe-clipping of turkeys (unless with infra-red at hatchery), and beak clipping after 10 days of age. Forced molting has also been prohibited.