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Organic Community Wants End to Practice of Importing Calves from Conventional Dairies

New National Organic Program rulemaking on dairy herd conversion continued to draw strong objections, with critics claiming the regulations allowed too many loopholes. The public comment period closed May 12.

There were also objections that the rule allows synthetic food contact substances in organic foods.

The National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture summed up the dairy herd objections: "It fails to clearly prohibit certified dairy operations from continually importing conventionally raised replacement animals and transitioning them to organic management," NCSA said.

Again, the Organic Trade Assn. found itself on the opposite side of the fence as it backed the measure. "This proposed rule, when made final in its current form, will bring stability and predictability for all sectors in the organic trade, from crop and dairy farmers to manufacturers and retailers," said Caren Wilcox, executive director of the OTA. Dairy producers will no longer be able to use the 20% non-organic feed during the first nine months of whole herd conversion to organic production, Wilcox said.

"Bringing in non-organic animals is an unethical management practice that violates the trust of consumers," said Mark Kassel with The Cornucopia Institute.

"Not addressing these loopholes after the organic community has worked so hard to come to agreement is disappointing," said Jim Riddle, former chairman of the National Organic Standards Board.

The Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance said while it was happy with the organic management for the last third of gestation, the wording in the regulation is "ambiguous regarding replacement animals brought into certified organic farms." "If this revised wording will still allow Oheifer ranches' to buy or raise conventional young stock, raise them under organic management for a year, and then sell them as certified organic dairy animals," NODPA said, "then no progress has been made on closing the current rule loophole that is allowing an influx of conventional young stock as a base of replacement dairy stock on some organic operations."

The organization favors a ban on continuous conversion of non-organic animals into the herd after it has been certified organic. "This rule rewrite is a prime opportunity to close the loophole and fix the double standard," NODPA said, "for the young animal management that has been permitted by the NOP, despite NOSB and public opposition since the rule was published."

Philip Batalden of Lamberton, MN said the new regulations should be written this way: "Livestock products that are to be sold, labeled, or represented as organic must be from livestock under continuous organic management form the last third of gestation or hatching. Following the conversion, all new young stock brought into the herd must be under organic management from the last third of gestation."

After analyzing public comment, the NOP said the final rule will become effective when it is published in the Federal Register. Enforcement will not start until June 9, 2007 for producers who are using the "80-20" feed rule exemption.

"This delay in enforcement respects the final court order to minimize market disruption and consumer confusion," the NOP said. "Producers who elect to use the 80-20 feed exemption up to the day before the final rule is published can continue to complete the year under the old regulation."

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