The following is from Walter Jeffries, who raises hogs on pasture in Vermont at Sugar Mountain Farm.
A while back I wrote that the USDA was stealing the term Naturally Grown. Well, they have done so. No need to listen to comments from the people. No need to wait for the rule to be implemented. They just went ahead and stopped the use of Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) on meat labels. I hate saying "I told you so," I really do, especially since I'm the one, along with all CNG farmers and consumers, who's taking a beating here...
The scoop on the Naturally Raised claim is that the USDA has asked for comments on a proposed Naturally Raised claim standard. They have it in the Federal Registry and are asking for comments until January 28.
The proposed standard is to be voluntary, but it is anything but that for small farmers — much like a voluntary NAIS. The USDA is already rejecting meat labels with the Certified Naturally Grown logo. I discovered this when I submitted our most recent label design for our Sugar Mountain Farm's All Natural Pastured Pork Hot Dogs last fall before the comment period even started.
Despite the facts that:
1) it is a voluntary standard,
2) the comment period has not yet closed and
3) the rule is not yet implemented,
the USDA is already rejecting Certified Naturally Grown as a violation of the proposed rule. They told me I may not use the CNG logo on our new label. Interestingly, they had previously accepted our use of the the CNG logo back in the beginning of 2007 for our last meat label design. Thus this is a change in policy.
The worst part is that not only is the USDA stealing and destroying the already existing Certified Naturally Grown label that was created by small farmers to differentiate themselves from the mass produced factory farms, but it is also diluting the standard — the USDA proposed version totally fails to cover the real issues such as access to pasture and natural quality of life. The USDA proposal also puts in restrictions on diet that are weird, such as saying that pigs and chickens can't drink milk or eat cheese — two very good foods for both of these species. The USDA's proposed rule is written such that it specifically benefits large confinement feeding operations so they can use the term while making it harder for small farmers who are really Naturally Raising their livestock.
Like with Certified Organic, once again, the USDA steals from the small farmers to give to Big Ag — the anti-Robin Hood of agriculture.
Now is your chance to be heard. So go to that link and respond — jump through all the hurdles to get your comments into the registry. They appear to purposefully make it difficult to leave comments but don't give up, work your way through the process. Once again, here's the link for leaving comments on the new proposed Naturally Raised rule. Tell them what Naturally Raised means to you.