The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has proposed amendments to organic livestock and poultry production requirements to clarify “how producers and handlers must treat their livestock and poultry to ensure their health and wellbeing throughout life.” Based on recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board, the draft rules also specify “which physical alterations are allowed and prohibited” and establish “minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for poultry.”

In particular, the proposed amendments provide for “a feed ration sufficient to meet nutritional requirements, including vitamins, minerals, protein and/or amino acids, fatty acids, energy sources, and fiber (ruminants), resulting in appropriate body condition.” They also limit physical alterations to those performed only at “a reasonably young age, with minimal stress and pain and by a competent person,” and only in cases determined to “benefit the welfare or hygiene of the animals, or for identification purposes or safety.” In addition to disallowing needle teeth trimming and tail docking in pigs except in documented situations where alternative methods to prevent harm failed, the amendments would prohibit the following practices: “de-beaking, de-snooding, caponization, dubbing, toe trimming of chickens, toe trimming of turkeys unless with infrared at hatchery, beak trimming after 10 days of age, tail docking of cattle, wattling of cattle, face branding of cattle, tail docking of sheep shorter than the distal end of the caudal fold, and mulesing of sheep.”

Among other things, AMS has also added wording to (i) clarify when organic producers can administer approved synthetic medications and vaccinations; (ii) prohibit the administration of hormones for production or reproduction; and (iii) establish that milk “from animals undergoing treatment with prohibited substances cannot be sold as organic or fed to organic livestock.” New provisions would require comprehensive plans to minimize parasite problems and forbid organic producers from (i) withholding treatment “for injured, diseased, or sick animals, which may include forms of euthanasia as recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association,” (ii) neglecting to keep records on treated animals; (iii) practicing forced molting; or (iv) performing euthanasia by suffocation, killing pliers, burdizzo clamps, or “a blow to the head by blunt instrument.” See AMS Press Release, April 7, 2016.