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USDA Kills Animal Welfare Rules for Organic Meat Producers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday decided not to impose a rule that would have required meat producers to meet certain animal welfare standards to be certified as organic.

The rule, which was scheduled to go into effect in May after a decision by the Obama administration, would have required that poultry animals be in cages large enough for the animals to move freely and stretch their wings and livestock be given access to outdoor spaces year round.

In a statement, USDA Marketing and Regulatory Program Undersecretary Greg Ibach said there are enough rules current "organic livestock and poultry regulations are effective" and further regulation is unnecessary.

"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," Ibach said.

But the Organic Trade Association, a business association of about 9,500 organic product businesses in the United States, blasted the USDA's decision, saying it "irresponsibly thwarted a fully vetted regulation overwhelmingly supported by the organic industry and the public."

The OTA had already filed a lawsuit against the USDA for previous withdrawal of rules pertaining to the organic industry and said it will add Monday's decision to its list of grievances.

"This most recent egregious attempt by the Department to ignore the will of the organic industry and consumers does not halt our judicial review, but, in fact, furthers our resolve," Laura Batcha, CEO of the OTA said in a statement. "USDA's unconscionable action does not deter us. USDA is hoping this issue will go away, but this latest action by USDA will only invigorate and solidify more support for this regulation."

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