The new National Organic Standards have some management practices that differ from the practices that MOFGA has allowed in the past. Farmers will have to become familiar with these new requirements and begin putting them into practice before the Rule goes into effect on October 21, 2002. MOFGA will be using the new standards for the 2002 application and inspection process. Livestock growers will have to be particularly aware of the new regulations, because their products begin growing well before they are sold.
The first issue addressed in the Rule is the origin of livestock. Livestock products that are to be labeled as organic must be from animals that have been treated according to the organic standards from the last third of their gestation. This means that the mother had to have been managed organically during the last third of the offspring’s time in utero. The only exceptions are poultry and dairy animals. Poultry must have organic management from at least the second day of life. Milk and milk products must be from animals that have been treated organically for at least one year prior to production of the product.
Dairy animals have their own exceptions, and sections of the exceptions are still unclear. We hope that they will be clarified by the National Organic Program shortly. I know from talking with Eric Sideman that the National Organic Standards Board will be making suggestions to the NOP (National Organic Program) to help correct this confusion. The exception that is clear is the one involving whole herd conversion. This exemption states that during the first nine months of whole herd conversion, the farmer must feed the animals at least 80% organic feed or feed that is raised on the farm that is included in the organic system plan and managed organically. This exemption refers to the feed only; other management practices must comply with organic standards. During the last three months, the feed must be totally organic. Once a herd is converted, all animals in the herd must have been managed organically from the last third of gestation.
The confusion lies with animals that are purchased to be added to the herd. The beginning statement – that milk and milk products must be from animals that have been treated organically for at least one year prior to production of the product – conflicts with the statement that once a herd is converted, all animals in the herd must be under organic management from the last third of gestation. At this point it is unclear which statement will be required for animals that are added to the herd from outside the farm.
Breeder stock may be brought into the operation any time, unless the animal is already pregnant and the young is to be considered organic. Then, the animal must be brought onto the farm on or before the last third of gestation. Any animal taken off the organic operation and moved to a non-organic one is not to be labeled as organically produced. Livestock farmers must keep sufficient records to guarantee the identity and treatment of each animal on the farm.
Livestock must feed on pasture and forages that are organically produced. Ruminant animals must receive a substantial portion of their nutrients from pasture during the grazing season. Any feed supplements and additives must not be given in amounts above the level needed for adequate nutrition, and of these materials, all nonsynthetic substances are allowed except those listed in the standards and only those synthetic substances listed are allowed.
One feed supplement that is important for livestock producers to be aware of is milk replacer. No nonmilk products (such as soy and grain-based products) or products containing rBST are allowed for livestock that are to be considered organic. Vitamin and mineral supplements and probiotics are generally allowed. If you are concerned about a specific product, please contact the MOFGA office.
When you complete your application for certification, your responses to questions about health care must describe what preventive methods you are using. These methods will include, for example, how you balance the animal’s rations to meet its nutritional needs, how you provide opportunity for exercise, and how you rotate pastures to control parasite infestations. You must also include methods that are used when these preventive practices prove inadequate. Medications that are permitted are listed in the standards. The only parasiticide that is allowed is Ivermectin. It is acceptable only prior to the last third of gestation in breeder stock, and a 90-day withdrawal period is required for dairy animals. It also cannot be administered on a routine basis.
The living conditions of livestock are also specified in the standards. All species of livestock must have access to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air and sunlight at all times. The only exceptions for temporary confinement are conditions such as inclement weather or the stage of an animal’s production or a health condition. As mentioned earlier all ruminants must have access to pasture.
If you have any questions or are using material that you think should be considered as a permitted synthetic, such as cleaning products, please contact the MOFGA office.