Organic dairy farmers, who for several years have been trying to get a tougher organic grazing regulation, formed a group last week to get this measure passed.
Organic dairy farmers from Maine to California met in LaCrosse, Wisconsin - home of the Organic Valley dairy co-op - on February 23rd and formed FOOD Farmers (Federation of Organic Dairy Farmers).
Why is this an issue? Because some larger-scale dairies have been loosely interpreting the requirement that livestock have "access to pasture." The regulation is so vague it allows some operations to feed their cows primarily on feedlots - not on pasture.
The group is pushing for a regulation for organic dairy animals to consume at least 30% of their food needs (dry matter intake) from pasture for the entire growing season, but for no less than 120 days. The USDA’s National Organic Program is currently in the process of more clearly defining the current standard that requires all ruminant animals, which includes dairy cows, to have access to pasture. "The addition of feed and time requirements will result in a verifiable nationwide standard unlike any other organic standard in the world," the group said.
Let's cut to the chase: this proposed regulation has been around since 2005, but the USDA has so far dragged its heels on implementing it. The vast majority of organic dairy farmers want it. Consumers support it. The only thing standing in the way is the regulatory machinery of the government.
So expect a FOOD fight to make it happen.