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Restoration of Extensive Outside Access for Organic Certification Likely

01/23/2021

With the restoration of Tom Vilsak to the position of Secretary of the USDA, there will be a reevaluation of outside access requirements for egg production under the USDA Certified Organic program.  It will be remembered that in 2017 on the last day of the Obama Administration, Secretary Vilsak approved the rule mandating minimum outside access. This would have effectively disqualified in-line barn and multi-level aviary units.  Then Secretary Dr. Sonny Perdue rescinded the rules allowing sun porches to substitute for outside access.


Hens with outside access to soil

With the inception of a new Administration it is obvious that animal rights groups including HSUS and representatives of organizations representing small-scale organic egg producers will agitate for restoration of the previous housing requirements.

 

It is therefore expected that if the outside access requirement is mandated, that a new category of eggs distinct from but parallel to organic regulations will emerge. Eggs will be derived from flocks housed in barns or in building fitted with aviaries, fed GMO feed and complying with most organic requirements with the exception of outside access.  It is anticipated that under the rules as proposed in 2016, certified organic eggs derived from hens allowed outside access and  the new category of GMO-free/humane-housed hens would be positioned below current organic prices.

 

Growth in organic egg production has stalled over many months based on price relative to alternatives including cage-free and even generic product. Imposing an excessive outside access requirement would disqualify a high proportion of current organic egg supply to the benefit of smaller-scale producers. This would satisfy the original intent of the extended outside access requirement.  Producers advocating outside access may be disappointed if their wish is granted as they will be supplying a smaller market with more intense competition, albeit at a higher price.


Organic egg complex with sun porches