The Trump administration continues its efforts to create a world where the worst impulses of humankind are rewarded. The Hill reports that Trump’s Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it will be rolling back an Obama-era rule that benefits one group of people over another.
The Trump administration has decided to withdraw an Obama-era rule that would have set new standards for the way animals should be treated if their meat is going to sold as “certified organic.”
The Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Monday that it is officially withdrawing the final rule it delayed for the third time in November. The agency said the rule, which was set to take effect in May, exceeded the department’s statutory authority and could have had a negative effect on voluntary participation in the National Organic Program.
Not unlike Ajit Pai, the Republican USDA is saying that organic food industry is “robust.” No need to change anything. Animals can’t talk. But gold bullion can in the swampy world of Republican leadership.
Had they gone into effect, the rules would’ve ensured that each organic laying hen gets a full square foot of space when it’s indoors. They also would’ve clarified what “access to the outdoors” means for livestock: screened-in porches would no longer count as outdoor space. The rules also would’ve added some new requirements for animal handling and transport to slaughter.
For Albert Straus, the first certified organic dairy farmer west of the Mississippi, the withdrawal is a disappointment. “I felt that the proposed rule is something we’ve worked on for years that was a consensus of the industry,” he told The New Food Economy in December, when USDA first announced its proposed withdrawal and said it was seeking public comment. “It’s rare in this day and age to have any influence on regulations and a common goal.”
Under Trump’s USDA, the brand of “organic” is what’s important, not the substance of that word. In December, Trump’s USDA announced they would be rolling back organic egg regulations set up during President Obama’s presidency and advocated for by organic egg farmers. Unfortunately, organic egg farmers are big agricultural behemoths.
Current organic rules require animals to have "access" to the outdoors. The largest egg producers, however, have built chicken houses that hold tens of thousands of hens, and the hens have access to the outdoors only through small enclosed "porches." Under the new rules, finalized at the end of the Obama administration, these porches would no longer be adequate.
Those large egg producers have been fighting the new rules. They've been joined by some non-organic-farm groups — most prominently, the National Pork Producers Council — who see a threat in any federal regulation of animal welfare practices on farms.
It was also in December that Trump’s USDA rolled back small farmer protections, hurting the very people who voted for Donald Trump.