Larry A. Law
Proposed Rule Changes
Under the new guidance, "organic" poultry farmers would be allowed to stack birds in multitiered containers stretching from floor to ceiling providing as little as 1 square foot of space per chicken. Outdoor space allotments would also be limited to 1 to 2 square feet, depending on the size of the bird. Egg-laying hens could be confined for the first 16 to 21 weeks of life. Broiler chickens could be confined until just 1-2 weeks before slaughter. The rule also allows half of the outdoor area to be covered in concrete or gravel, preventing chickens from engaging in their natural instinctive behaviors.
Over time, smaller organic companies have been acquired by conventional producers, who have slowly eroded organic standards through willful violations and lobbying. As a result, 90% of "organic" eggs now come from gigantic confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) owned by the largest suppliers of conventional eggs. According to OrganicEye, most certified organic chicken comes from companies that raise birds in near-total confinement and feed them imported grain that may or may not be truly organic. According to OrganicEye, organic grain fraud is commonplace.
Despite governmental hype, the proposed standards hardly enshrine animal welfare. Rather, they fulfill the wish-list of corporate lobbyists. U. S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is a former million-dollar-a-year agribusiness lobbyist who was named Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) Governor of the Year in 2001 "for his support of the industry's economic growth and agricultural biotechnology research." The most powerful lobbying group in organic foods is the Organic Trade Association (OTA) which has slowly become dominated by the mega-corporations. Several independently-owned organic brands, such as Nature's Path, Nutiva, and Dr. Bronner's, have resigned their membership in the OTA in protest of its Big Ag bias. Jim Gerritsen, board president at OrganicEye, states: "While USDA should be codifying the improved welfare of livestock, and increasing organic integrity, this misguided proposed rule sadly does neither. Rather, it enshrines the very practices which have allowed industial factory farms to move in, take over, and push out hard-working organic family farms."
What can we do? The first step is always awareness. Second, find a trusted local, organic family farm that you can purchase your food through. Our financial support will help sustain these family farms and it will safeguard future food sources we and our children will be able to depend upon in the future.