Author Topic: FREE-RANGE EGG PRODUCERS: ACTION ALERT!  (Read 1562 times)

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Offline Little Feather

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« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2013, 08:18:11 AM »
July 23, 2013
Contact:  Mark Kastel, 608-625-2042

FDA/USDA Collude to Eliminate True Organic Egg Production
Onerous Food Safety Rules Could Abolish Outdoor Access for Laying Hens


Cornucopia, WI – Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a
draft guidance document
to clarify how egg producers, including organic farmers with outdoor
access, can comply with its 2009 egg safety rule aimed at reducing
salmonella contamination in the nation's egg supply.

Since organic producers are required by federal standards
to grant outdoor access to their laying hens, the guidance applies to all
organic egg producers.  The FDA, which collaborated with the USDA's
National Organic Program in promulgating their guidance, recognizes minute
covered porches, which do not afford true and meaningful outdoor access to
laying hens, as one of four possible organic production systems and
thereby legitimizes their use.

Already the focus of controversy and threatened lawsuits, the USDA has
been widely criticized for allowing giant "organic" factory farms,
confining as many as 100,000 birds to a building, to skirt the
requirements for outdoor access by employing tiny screened porches, often
with a capacity of only 1-3% of the confined birds.  The USDA is currently
allowing these giant poultry operations to claim these structures as the
legally required "access to the outdoors."

“This is collusion between two Obama administration agencies to
significantly and permanently weaken the integrity of the organic
standards,” says Mark Kastel, Codirector of The Cornucopia Institute.

“By giving the OK to use covered porches as ‘outdoor access,’ and putting
additional burdens on producers with legitimate outdoor runs or pasture,
the recommendations in this food safety document decisively tilt the
playing field to industrial-scale producers,” added Kastel.

Some in the organic community had been concerned that the FDA would
require impractical swabbing and disinfecting of the outdoor areas but the
draft guidance puts these concerns to rest.  However, other prevention and
control measures that are included in the guidance could force organic
producers to devote significant additional resources, or may even make it
impossible for pastured poultry operations to comply.

Stephanie Alexandre, a producer of certified organic, pastured eggs near
Crescent City, California, objects to the draft guidance.  "It's ironic
that federal regulators would apply such scrutiny, and costly and
labor-intensive requirements, to my farm when there is abundant published,
peer-reviewed research indicating that the real danger to society, from
salmonella contamination in eggs, comes from giant industrial operations,
generally with caged birds, not with modest sized flocks of pastured
poultry," said the organic farmer.

For example, despite weak scientific evidence that contact with wild birds
is a significant risk factor for salmonella contamination, the FDA
requires organic producers to minimize contact with other birds.  The
agency recommends noise cannons, temporary confinement, or netting, or
even structures with roofs (porches) which would be cost prohibitive for
most organic producers with meaningful outdoor access.

Some of the recommended measures would discourage chickens from using the
outdoor space.  For example, while noise cannons would be effective in
scaring wild birds, they would also scare the laying hens and effectively
make the outdoor area an inhospitable environment for the organic birds.

"In effect, the FDA’s proposed recommendations would steer organic egg
producers toward the use of porches, which would be the most effective and
cost-efficient way to ensure complete compliance with the rule," Kastel
explained.  "Why would farm operators invest the extra labor and expense
to meet the FDA requirements, and put their birds outside, when they can
create a token structure, attached to their main building, and continue to
confine their animals?"

“The recommendations in this draft guidance essentially give organic
producers a textbook of excuses for why their birds can legally be
confined in industrial settings,” says Kastel.  “To create the safest and
most nutritious eggs, we should be encouraging more and better use of
outdoor space, for laying hens so that they can exhibit their true, native
behavior.  But this FDA document does just the opposite.”

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The Cornucopia Institute was already investigating a legal action against
the USDA for its unwillingness to enforce the law requiring outdoor access
for chickens.  It is the farm policy organization's contention that
confining birds to small adjacent structures on massive industrial-scale
"farms," does not meet the federal legal mandate.

In what now appears to be a cynical ploy, the USDA had asked the National
Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the expert citizen panel that Congress
created to advise the Secretary of Agriculture, to develop standards to
help enforce the requirement for outdoor access.

The NOSB completed a years-long process of collaborating with industry
representatives and forwarded a series of recommendations to USDA
leadership that would have required a minimum amount of square footage,
and other requirements, like the number and size of doors, that would have
facilitated enforcement of the outdoor access provisions.

Recently, leadership at the USDA's National Organic Program informed
organic stakeholders that they would not follow through with amending
poultry/livestock regulations, incorporating the NOSB's recommendations,
because it was currently "not a priority."

"The lack of enforcement action by the USDA has helped shift the lion’s
share of production of organic eggs to giant agribusinesses, which mostly
produce conventional eggs, at the expense of family-scale farmers who are
producing a superior product in an environmentally responsible manner and
treating their livestock humanely," stated Cornucopia's Kastel.  "We will
not stand by while the most dedicated and responsible, and law-abiding,
organic producers are placed at a competitive disadvantage by the
arbitrary and capricious behavior of the current administration's
leadership at the USDA and FDA."

The FDA has opened a 60-day public comment period for input pursuant to
their draft guidance on compliance with the salmonella safety rule for
producers with outdoor access for laying hens.  For more information,
visit the FDA's website:

The Cornucopia Institute will soon release an action alert and briefing
paper so interested organic stakeholders can make informed comments on the
draft guidance.

Cornucopia is also analyzing a separate pending FDA draft rule that will
seriously impact family-scale vegetable growers.

If organic farmers and consumers interested in protecting the integrity of
the organic label, and possibly the country's safest agricultural
producers, are not already Cornucopia members, they can either join
by visiting the organization's website (for full access to electronic and
print publications) or sign up for Cornucopia’s free electronic
newsletter: .  Either way they will be notified when
Cornucopia's action alert and briefing materials become available.

The Cornucopia Institute engages in research and educational activities
supporting the ecological principles and economic wisdom underlying
sustainable and organic agriculture.  Through research and investigations
on agricultural and food issues, The Cornucopia Institute provides needed
information to family farmers, consumers, stakeholders involved in the
good food movement, and the media.

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« Last Edit: September 03, 2013, 08:27:56 AM by Little Feather »