<< Hi Marjorie.
My understanding of organic livestock production is not that it requires that
treatment be withheld from suffering animals, but that alternative therapies
consistent with organic standards be used instead, as long as the animal is to
be marketed as organic. The option is always left open to treat the animal
conventionally if the farmer feels the necessity. That animal could no longer
be marketed as organic, but the decision to treat and how to treat remains at
all times with the farmer.
Beth von Gunten
Ventura County, California >>
For many years certified organic farms that have produced livestock on
certified organic land have always administered therapeutic treatment of
animals with synthetic medicines and parasiticides when needed. Such animals
are retained on the premises at least until the FDA withdrawal times are met
and than as Beth indicates diverted to conventional sales outlets. Of the 150
certified organic farms nationwide that also raise a substantial number of
livestock for meat products, to my knowledge, everyone diverts livestock
treated with synthetic medicines or parasiticides to conventional sales.
Our experience is the more proficient the farmer gets in birthing, raising and
maturing livestock or poultry with no synthetic medicines and parasiticides,
the more their expertise demands respect and remuneration. We, as organic
livestock farmers, have never asked our customers to take less than the
healthiest and most cared for livestock products. If the organic community
now decides as a group to follow the guidelines set out in OFPA for meat and
poultry production, and demands FSIS finally allow an organic meat label, the
customers will beat their way to the farmer's doors.
Citizens are appalled at the controversies coming out of the intensive,
perpetual confinement meat and poultry industry. They want an alternative.
It is time for experienced certified organic livestock farmers to step forward
and conclude to take up the OFPA livestock standards with a passion, improve
on them if needed and get the organic livestock ball rolling. USDA's proposed
major perversion of everything certified livestock producers have stood
for--no synthetic medicines and parasiticides, 100% organic feed with real
time emergency exceptions, feeding of all livestock reared on an organic farm
from gestation forward all organically produced feed, breeding stock to
produce organic livestock products (other than poultry and dairy) brought on
the farm being fed all organically produced feed from the last third of
gestation, allowing identified synthetic minerals and vitamins to be used only
as a dietary supplement in cases where the feed or conditions would make for a
mineral or vitamin nutrition deficit (we have always preferred free choice
kelp to solve these potential deficiencies), no synthetic amino acids, no
reprocessed protein, availability of sunlight, fresh air, pasture for all
animals but fish, aquatic life, crawfish, rabbit and poultry (though it is
preferred to have pastured rabbits and poultry), adequate water and adequate
housing and allowance for confinement when needed because of inclimate weather
conditions, destruction to soil structure or protection from varmints. USDA's
Proposed Rule is an unmitigating insult to all organic farmers and especially
organic livestock farmers.
Sure management is the key. Short term solutions to basic health and
nutritional problems Awa's fail when the drug addiction programs are
curtailed. Organic history is replete with examples from raising Rainbow
trout in Canada, to rabbits, hogs, sheep, poultry or cattle in the US. Well
managed organic farms produce livestock products cheaper meaning the "buck"
stops in the farmer's back pocket--and the products bring a higher price, and
the customer returns because they do not want synthetic and toxic substances
in their foods and fibers. To me, the more money that stays in the back
pocket of the farmer for the same amount of time and quantity of production is
the indication the farmer is managing correctly.
Examine our fellow livestock farmers Greg and Lei Gunthorp. They already
indicated they have a much higher return on investment, all investments, time,
money, equipment added up, than perpetual confinement operations. Many, many
of the practices and the overall system they and their family have used for
decades are the fundamental basis of organic hog production. What
modifications do they have to make to be certified organic: feed all organic
feed, beat the parasites by only returning to a piece of land after two
growing seasons and probably balance the number of livestock they carry to the
production capacity of the crop, forage and pasture operation--implementing
organic production probably means less hogs for a higher price and a higher
net unit profit. There really is nothing else I can think of. If they have
to inject or inhale a hog with synthetic medicines or parasiticides, divert it
to the conventional market when appropriate. All the time they will be
selective breeding for parasite and disease resistance, just as they have
selective bred in the past for pasture farrowing, number in a litter, back
fat, or number of nipples. They also can use many natural substances for
disease control, nutrition and general well being.
Organic farmers thought USDA did not understand organic practices and systems.
We, as organic farmers, are rapidly concluding that the only people that
really understand organics and perhaps can understand are the farmers that
took the risk and have done it--done it for their families, their customers
and the benefit of the environment. It looks like USDA will simply not
respect individual initiative--the farmer that perfected their production
system, built their own market, established a peer discussion and decision on
standards of production and handling. For 20 years this has been developed
and perfected without any assistance from the USDA, the university or the
extension service. The past and present USDA policy screwed conventional
farmers to the barn door, now they evidently feel they can do the same to
organic farmers and their customers.
Best Regards, Eric Kindberg
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