On Tuesday, March 29, 2022, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a final Origin of Livestock Rule for organic farmers. USDA’s publishing of this rule signals a long-awaited win for organic farms in Maine and is something that a coalition of advocacy groups and farmers has been recommending for several years.
“This will go a long way towards leveling the playing field for Maine’s organic dairies and ensuring that all organic livestock producers are following the same set of rules,” said Sarah Alexander, executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA).
The Origin of Livestock Rule stipulates that dairy operations transitioning to organic, or starting a new organic farm, can transition non-organic animals one time and prohibits established organic dairies from sourcing transitioned animals. Previously a loophole and misinterpretation of the USDA rules by some certification agencies allowed for a continuous transition of non-organic animals. MOFGA Certification Services, which is the certifying agency for most organic farms in Maine, and many other certifiers across the country did not permit continuous transition. With this rule in place, all organic farms and organic certifiers in the United States will now need to come into line with the standards that Maine’s organic dairies have been adhering to.
This announcement follows more good news for Maine’s organic dairy industry, which recently received word that 11 of the farmers who had lost their contracts for organic milk with Horizon have been offered letters of intent by Organic Valley. The Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership was also recently established to bolster the market for organic milk produced in the Northeast through new partnerships with suppliers and retailers.
“At MOFGA we know that organic dairies are the backbone of many of Maine’s rural communities, and we’re going to continue to advocate for policies that ensure these farms have bright futures,” said Alexander.