Horizon Organic has joined growing calls for the US Department of Agriculture to implement tougher regulations governing organic grazing requirements.

Increasingly, animal rights activists and segments of the US organic dairy industry have been speaking out against intensive farming practices that are being used in the production of organic milk.

The debate centres on the question of whether milk from cows that are given little or no access to pasture and reared using factory farming techniques can be marketed as organic and therefore sold at premium prices.

Kelly Shea, Horizon Organic’s vice president of organic stewardship and industry relations, said that Horizon has repeatedly called for the USDA to clarify and strengthen pasture requirements for organic stock.

“We at Horizon Organic actively support changes to the organic regulations clarifying that the requirements for pasture apply to all ruminants, including lactating animals,” Shea said.

“We also fully support a change that would require active grazing for at least 120 days during the growing season. It is critical that all organic farmers – including those in the process of transitioning to organic – have certainty versus ambiguity wherever possible.”

In response to the mounting pressure from various quarters, the USDA made grazing issues the focus of its National Organic Standards Board Pasture Symposium, held last week.