Organic Dairy Farmers celebrate the publication of the New Pasture Rule
In 2005, Henry Perkins, an organic dairy farmer from Albion, ME, brought a sign to an USDA NOSB meeting that read "Let Them Eat Grass."
On Friday February 12, 2010, he got what he requested with the release of the Final Access to Pasture Rule that Henry says “provides the clear, defined, specific language needed for enforcement of one of the central tenets of organically produced livestock—that organic livestock spend a considerable part of their lives in their natural pasture habitat and receive a significant portion of their food needs from fresh, green, growing pasture.”
As with every other stage of the rulemaking, the release of the widely acclaimed and praised Rule was not easy. The Federal government decided to close its doors the week we were expecting the release of the Rule. NOP chief and Miles McEvoy had to wade through a blizzard to hand deliver the rule to the Federal Register office to ensure release on Friday.
In a signal of greater transparency and inclusiveness, Under Secretary Kathleen Merrigan invited organic dairy leaders to a conference call to explain the provisions of the Rule. On the call were: myself on behalf of NODPA and FOOD Farmers; George Sieman and Missy Hughes (CROPP); Kelly Shea (Horizon Organic); Urvashi Rangen (Consumers Union); Christine Bushway (OTA); Steve Etka (National Organic Coalition) and Mark Kastel (Cornucopia). We all heard the same message from the Under Secretary and Miles McEvoy and we all applauded their work and the content of the Rule.
For many producers this new rulemaking will not impact their operations although it will probably increase their paperwork slightly. For others there will be operational changes and differences in their organic systems plan and for a few it will mean some dramatic changes to their operation as a whole.
NODPA has created a web page as a resource to de-mystifying the Rule and provide resources that are easy to understand and very accessible. As a work in progress, we will post more resources as we learn and receive more information. NODPA’s "Pasture Page" is an excellent resource and has:
In a deeply partisan Washington DC, the organic community has shown the power of consensus-building of all stakeholders. The different and sometimes conflicting interests of processors, farmers, consumers and ngo’s were set aside to bring this Rule to publication. Perhaps organics are reaching a new stage of maturity and growth. All we need now is to build sales so our producers, especially those in the West threatened by low utilization payments, can receive a reasonable price for their organic milk.
Ed Maltby, NODPA Executive Director
"This is the biggest deal in the organic community for many years."
Head of the USDA NOP
"I am still pinching myself to be sure that this is all real--after all these years it seems almost too good to be true."
New York producer
"This is a sound and commendable pasture rule clarification that eliminates all the loopholes of the past and puts controversy behind us."
Michael Sligh of the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA
"The rulemaking is long overdue, and producers and processors need the clarity in the rule to plan for the future and to continue ensuring the integrity of organic certification for the consumer."
Tony Azovedo, California Producer and President of the Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (WODPA)
"This Final rule is great as it has the specificity and detail that we need to have a level playing field across the country."
Darlene Coehoorn, Wisconsin producer and President of the Midwest Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (MODPA)
"Well Done! Thanks and Congratulations to all who have worked so long and hard getting to this point."
Maine producer and NODPA past President