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On Friday the USDA announced their new rules for organic milk and meat. The new rules have taken years to develop and amend the National Organic Program (NOP) regulations to clarify the use of pasture in raising organic ruminants. Finally the USDA has decided that to be called organic meat and milk must come from livestock that spends at least four months of the year grazing on pasture and that 30 percent of their feed must come from grazing. In general, the new rules state...

  • 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.

The old rules said only that animals must have "access to pasture" but there were no time stipulations. The new rules will be taking effect in June, but farmers and ranchers will have one year to comply - so it'll be a while before all organic meat and milk is following the new standards.