This just in: The USDA published its final rule on access to pasture for organic dairy animals this afternoon. This enhancement to the National Organic Standards has been in the works for many years, and its announcement is a major victory for organic consumers, the integrity of the organic label, and the lives of organic livestock. While the National Organic Standards already require access to pasture for ruminant animals, this enhancement lays out very specific requirements:
- Animals must graze pasture during the grazing season, which must be at least 120 days per year;
- Animals must obtain a minimum of 30 percent dry matter intake from grazing pasture during the grazing season;
- Producers must have a pasture management plan and manage pasture as a crop to meet the feed requirements for the grazing animals and to protect soil and water quality; and,
- Livestock are exempt from the 30 percent dry matter intake requirements during the finish feeding period, not to exceed 120 days. Livestock must have access to pasture during the finishing phase.