Monday, August 12, 2013

Office of Inspector General Releases Report On USDA Organic “Access to Pasture Rule”

On July 15, 2013, the OIG released its audit report evaluating organic milk operations’ implementation of the access to pasture rule and their compliance with the USDA organic regulations. Upon review, the OIG found that the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) successfully implemented the rule as part of the National Organic Program (NOP) but offered recommendations for improvement.

The access to pasture rule was published in February 2010 to amend provisions in the NOP regarding livestock confinement and the necessary dietary requirements of organically raised livestock, which, according to AMS, were unclear. The access to pasture rule clarified these provisions, requiring that producers provide livestock with access to pasture during the grazing season for their geographical location among other provisions. The rule was fully implemented on June 17, 2011.
Based on the review, the OIG recommends that NOP clarify its origin of livestock rules and ensure that feed-brokers are included within the NOP certification process to ensure there is no commingling or contamination of organic feed. Also, OIG noted that certifying agents did not take consistent action when identifying non-compliance issues with USDA organic regulations and it found that smaller operations were often unaware of the record-keeping requirements of the access to pasture rule. OIG offers recommendations based on these findings. AMS concurs with all of the OIG recommendations.

For the full report, please see the OIG Audit Report 01601-0002-32.
Written by Sarah L. Doyle - Research Assistant
The Agricultural Law Resource and Reference Center
August 12, 2013

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