Recently the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) published a proposed change to the organic standards for livestock production. Commissioner Staples wants to ensure you are aware of the proposed modifications.

Comments from farmers, ranchers and other businesses directly affected by the regulation are essential to help USDA fine-tune the proposal to avoid unintended adverse impacts on the organic livestock industry. USDA is seeking feedback from organic beef producers, because little information was received from this segment of the organic industry during the drafting of the proposed rule.

Most of the input USDA received came from small dairy producers in the Northeast and Midwest. Conditions and farming practices in those parts of the country are very different from Texas production and climate. Even within Texas, climatic conditions vary widely. It is imperative the organic standards allow for flexibility and avoid excluding the needs of large regions of the country. Current regulations allow finishing of organic slaughter stock with organic grain and organic hay, and the National Organic Standards Board has recommended allowing confinement of organic slaughter stock up to 120 days for finishing. The proposed rule would prohibit these and other current practices used in organic production.

The complete text of the proposed rule is available on the NOP website http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop under "Today's News" for Oct. 24, 2008. Instructions for submitting comments to USDA about this proposal are also included in the Federal Register notice. All comments must be received by USDA before Dec. 23, 2008.