In February 2010, the National Organic Program (NOP) published their long awaited “Pasture Rule," although it's also referred to as the Access to Pasture Rule. The new rule took many years to create and went into affect in June 17, 2010. Operations going organic or who are already organic must have verification of full compliance with the pasture rule by June 17, 2011.
The pasture rule was created in order to establishes clear and enforceable standards regarding access to pasture for organic livestock. Not only does this make for the healthiest and sustainable livestock operations, but it helps to ensure organic consumers that organic livestock productions actually are pasture based vs. factory farm based. Lastly, the pasture rule adds better clarification to the existing pasture rule that will help organic producers and certifying agents to consistently implement NOP regulations.
In general, the pasture rule means that ruminant livestock must be allowed to actively graze on a daily basis during the grazing season. Animals must also have access to outdoor areas and cannot be confined during the non-grazing season.
To operate and market livestock products as USDA organic, all certified organic operations must now include a fully functioning pasture management plan into their organic system plans (OSP). The OSP will be verified annually during onsite inspections by a certifying agent. Any operation not in compliance by June 17, 2011 is in danger of having their organic certification suspended or revoked.
As with almost all NOP rules, the pasture rule has some exceptions to be aware of. To see all exceptions and read the pasture rules in full, visit the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (eCFR) (Standards) and check out subparts §205.239 livestock living conditions and §205.240 pasture practice standard. For more in-depth information on the pasture rule visit the NOP Pasture Rulemaking page or speak with your local organic certifying agent.