Regulatory Recap - Organic Livestock Producers

2018 was a significant year for organic livestock producers. Although two landmark practices standards were withdrawn, NOP conducted a broad range of National List revisions to expand the options for health care treatments for organic livestock.

Origin of Livestock

The organic livestock industry had been early awaiting the finalization of a proposed rule from 2015 on Origin of Livestock. Although the issue was removed from the USDA’s regulatory agenda in early 2017, the topic was reignited at the Fall 2018 NOSB meeting. In response to a direct request made by the Organic Trade Association’s Executive Director Laura Batcha in public comment, NOSB unanimously passed a resolution urging the Secretary of Agriculture to directly issue a final rule for Origin of Livestock. Final rulemaking is critical to resolving the current state of varying interpretations and practices around the origin of livestock standards and the resulting market instability for organic producers.

Organic livestock and poultry practice standard

After months of delays, the final rule on Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices was ultimately withdrawn in March 2018. The regulation addresses four broad areas of organic livestock and poultry practices: living conditions, animal healthcare, transport, and slaughter. Most importantly, it stops the use of “porches” from being allowed in organic poultry production, and requires producers to give their poultry meaningful access to the outdoors. The Organic Trade Association has been actively engaged in a legal challenge against USDA for its failure to put into effect these new organic livestock standards published as a final rule in early 2017. In a new filing that revised the original complaint against USDA to reflect the department’s move to withdraw the rule, the Organic Trade Association was joined by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) as co-plaintiffs in the suit.

Backlog of NOSB recommended medical treatments to be allowed

NOP’s December 27, 2018, final rule will add a handful of synthetic medical treatments to the National List from a long backlog of NOSB recommendations dating back to 2000. These include Activated charcoal from vegetative sources, Calcium borogluconate and Calcium propionate for emergency treatment of milk fever, Kaolin pectin as adsorbent and antidiarrheal aids, Mineral Oil for relief of intestinal compaction, Injectable vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes for nutrient supplementation, and Propylene glycol for treatment of ketosis. More recent NOSB recommendations enacted through the NOP Final Rule are Acidified sodium chlorite to be allowed as a teat dip and Zinc sulfate to be allowed as a topical hoof treatment.

Amendments to currently allowed medical treatments

The final rule also reduces the withdrawal periods for Lidocaine and Procaine in livestock production (8 days for slaughter stock and 6 days for dairy stock) when used as local anesthetics during physical alterations such as dehorning. Chlorhexidine continues to be allowed as a teat dip and also is allowed as a germicide for any medical procedures conducted under supervision of a veterinarian. The rule will allow the use of Xylazine as a sedative in non-emergency health care procedures. Additionally, APHIS-approved excipients (inactive ingredient) will be allowed in combination with approved active health care materials, and Hypochlorous Acid will be allowed as a chlorine sanitizing material.

Methionine for poultry to accommodate changing nutritional needs over time

The December 27 final rule makes an amendment to the restricted use of methionine, an essential amino acid used as a feed additive for organic poultry. Under the new rule, methionine is restricted at the following maximum rates as averaged per ton of feed over the life of the flock: laying chickens—2 pounds; broiler chickens – 2.5 pounds; turkeys and all other poultry—3 pounds. By calculating the methionine limits as a lifetime average (instead of as a maximum levels as fed, as it was previously), producers can adjust methionine supplementation based on the changing nutritional needs of the birds at specific stages of production. Industry efforts to identify and develop natural alternatives to synthetic methionine are ongoing.

Parasiticides creates opportunity for increased production of organic wool, fleece

Creating a historical change and opportunity for the organic textile sector, the final rule will allow the restricted use of a limited number of parasiticides as a medical treatment for organic fiber-bearing animals, which are livestock from which wool or fleece is harvested for use in textile products. Under the new rule, organic livestock may be treated with moxidectin or fenbendazole when preventive practices are not sufficient to prevent sickness, and when used a minimum of 36 days prior to harvesting of fleece or wool that is to be sold, labeled, or represented as organic. This allowance will help foster the development of a domestic organic wool industry to support growing consumer demand for organic fiber and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified textiles. For cattle and other livestock species, moxidectin or fenbendazole may be used with a milk withhold period of 2 or 36 days, respectively. The rule will also prohibit ivermectin as a parasiticide on any livestock species as of December 27, 2019.

Proposed rule to expand allowance of elemental sulfur

NOP published a proposed rule in April 2018 that would allow elemental sulfur for use as a topical pesticide treatment in organic livestock production to repel mites, fleas, and ticks from livestock and livestock living quarters. If finalized, this material will become an important tool for poultry producers to control parasites in situations when preventive measures are not adequate. //



Ivermectin (parasiticide) to be prohibited effective December 27, 2019. The milk withholding periods for Fenbendazole and Moxidectin (parasiticides) to be reduced to 2 days for cattle, 36 days for other species. Milk withholds for Lidocaine and Procaine (local anesthetics) to be reduced to 6 days for dairy stock.

New allowed materials specific to dairy sector to be allowed include:  Calcium borogluconate and Calcium propionate for emergency treatment of milk fever, Propylene glycol for treatment of ketosis, and Acidified sodium chlorite as a teat dip.