USDA has released the final regulation regarding access to pasture for organic livestock operations. This rule amends the National Organic Program regulations to clarify the use of pasture in raising organic ruminants. The department says the rule provides certainty to consumers that organic livestock production is a pasture based system in which animals are actively grazing pasture during the grazing season.
Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says the final rule will give consumers confidence that organic milk or cheese comes from cows raised on pasture, and organic family farmers the assurance that there is one, consistent pasture standard that applies to dairy products.
The main components of the rule include: 1/ Animals must graze pasture during a 120 day season of which 30% must be dry matter; 2/ Producers must have a pasture management plan and manage pasture as a crop to meet the feed requirements; and, 3/ Livestock are exempt from the 30% dry matter intake requirements during the finish feeding period, not to exceed 120 days.
The final rule will become effective June 17, 2010. Operations which are already certified organic will have one year to implement the provisions and operations which obtain organic certification after the effective date will be expected to demonstrate full compliance. Although this is a final rule, comments on the exceptions for finish feeding of ruminant slaughter stock may be submitted before April 19, 2010.