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Proposed USDA Animal Welfare Rules Not Guaranteed, Vilsack Says


Controversial federal rules that would change the production of organic meat may not be finalized before President Obama leaves office. This leaves open the possibility that they may never go into effect.  

The rules would create new standards for how livestock are treated on certified organic farms. For beef cows and hogs, that would mean new rules for how many animals are allowed in a single pen. For chickens, more access to the outdoors. The Department of Agriculture, the agency that formed the rules, estimates the change would cost the organic industry more than $13 million a year.

“I’m hopeful that we get them done. I can’t guarantee that they’ll get done, but I’m hopeful they get done,” says Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Some of the country’s largest farm organizations vehemently oppose the changes, and are lobbying the new administration to drop them.

As KUNC’s reporter covering the Colorado River Basin, I dig into stories that show how water issues can both unite and divide communities throughout the Western U.S. I produce feature stories for KUNC and a network of public media stations in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Nevada.