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Organic farmers happy their competition will finally be playing by the same rules

In 2017, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued the 2017 Organic Livestock Poultry Practices rule under the direction of then president Barack Obama. The rule was supposed to close loopholes in the way some chicken farmers raise their organic chickens by using “porches'' instead of allowing them to graze in the open. In 2018 though, before the rule could go into effect, former President Trump’s administration delayed and ultimately withdrew it. Now it appears the rule has returned, and the current President Biden administration is looking to strengthen it.

So what’s all the fuss about “porches” and chickens anyhow? Well, in order to qualify as “organically raised” chickens are supposed to have access to the outdoors. A number of farmers found a loophole that would not only save them money, but make it more difficult for the competition to keep up. That would be the use of porches. As the Wisconsin State Farmer explains, these porches are nothing more than “enclosed spaces with screens”, that are meant to meet the basic requirements of “outside access”.

When you require less outdoor space to keep your organic chickens, you’re able to have more chickens on your property, and in turn make more money. For the farmers playing by the rules though, like Steve Hartwig of Fort Atkinson and Johnson Creek, Wisconsin, he’s been at a disadvantage.

The new rule that’s being brought forward by the current administration seeks to close the porches loophole, as well as strengthen the practices for raising dairy cattle and hogs. The hope now is when you’re buying “organic” in your local grocer, you’ll know that the product was truly raised in an organic lifestyle and all farmers were on a level playing field.

 To read the full story from the Wisconsin State Farmer, click here: