The USDA recently proposed grazing guidelines for certified organic dairy farms that clarify the requirements for pasture grazing. Organic livestock must be raised without hormones, antibiotics or feed treated with pesticides. Producers were also required to provide the animals with “access to pasture” so they can get out, roam around and graze a bit.
Under the new standards, the term “access to pasture” it means thirty percent of organic livestock’s feed must come from grazing in pasture, as opposed to only eating organically produced food in a feedlot or indoor facility. Organic farms now need to allow animals to graze in pasture at least 120 days a year.
It doesn’t seem like this is a major issue the USDA should be concerned about, right? Not exactly. Consumers and organic advocacy organizations voiced their concerns to the USDA about dairy farms that provide our stores with organic milk but were not providing very much “access to pasture.” This allowed some farms to gain an advantage over other farms by lowering their production costs.
The USDA believes addressing the role of pasture in organic farming will clarify its meaning and allow it to be easier for farms to be in compliance. Many farmers hope these guidelines will not only help ensure adequate and appropriate organic standards are met, but also protect the integrity of organic farming and the products we eat.