USDA Asked to Clarify Organic Regulations

A debate is raging over the USDA’s regulation of organic livestock and egg farms. Some farmers, like Edwin Blosser believe that organic egg farms should be characterized be open spaces, fresh air, and no enclosures. These farmers want the USDA to restrict its organic farming to exclude farms that use enclosures.

Others, like Greg Herbruck, believe that organic farms can provide fresh air while still using enclosures. They argue that stricter organic regulations could drive prices up and enclosures make organic farming both profitable and affordable. “There are some groups that want every egg to be cage free,” said Charlie Lanktree, chief executive of Eggland’s Best. “The economics of that whole thing would be that you might very well increase your cost for a dozen organic eggs from $4 a dozen to seven or eight a dozen.”

Current USDA regulations only require that animals spend time outdoors so animals can engage in “nature behavior.” Current regulations, however, do not specify how much time must be spent outdoors. Critics argue that current organic farming practices are deceptive to consumers, who don’t expect organic farms to use practices they associate with large-scale commercial egg farms.

Farmers have also debates the morality of enclosure. Those in favor of tightening regulations argue that time in pastures is better for birds. “We just think it’s a better way to raise birds. Even though it’s more work, we think it’s more healthy,” said Blosser. Those who support enclosure argue that it allows them to better protect against rats and other disease carrying vermin.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer