A new organic pasture regulation has been fully reviewed by the USDA, bringing it one-step closer to completion, Barbara Robinson, deputy administrator for the USDA's National Organic Program (NOP), said Wednesday.
In an update at the National Organic Standards Board meeting underway in Arlington, Virginia, Robinson said the the NOP is working on the supplemental language to the regulation, dealing with the economic impact of the regulation, compliance with the paperwork reduction act, and impact on small producers. "We're going to get this done shortly and then it goes over the OMB (Office of Management and Budget)," she said.
USDA expects to run into some issues with OMB, which has viewed every organic regulation except for materials as a "major rule" that needs extra vetting. That means OMB will likely take another 60 days for review, in which time Congress will also get to look at it. Robinson said she plans to visit with OMB when USDA first sends over the regulation for review to impress the importance of it.
The upshot seems to be that the regulation won't be out of OMB until late first-quarter, which presumably is when it will first be published for comment.
A wide coalition of organic dairy farmers is pushing for a requirement that ruminants receive at least 30 percent of their nutritional needs from fresh grass during the growing season, but not less than 120 days. Currently, the organic regulations only require "access to pasture," which meant a cow might rarely get a blade of fresh grass and live out its productive life on feedlots. A clear pasture regulation would end that practice, though it is unknown what the final rule will actually say.
Organic dairy farmers have been pushing for a change in this regulation since at least 2000, and the new rule change language has been under review at the USDA since 2005.