WEST LAFAYETTE -- Indiana livestock producers and lobbying groups are objecting to a possible higher standard for animal treatment on organic farms.
Some worry the proposed federal regulations could be a gateway to higher costs for all farmers -- organic or not.
The proposed changes aim to make sure certified organic cows, chickens, pigs and other animals are raised and killed more humanely.
The rules focus in part on how much space animals have to do their normal behaviors. For chickens, that means access to open dirt, and room to perch.
Bob White, at the Indiana Farm Bureau, says food processing companies wouldn't be the ones paying to renovate farmers' chicken houses if the rules changed:
"It's gonna be you, the producer, that has to implement it -- you, the producer, that has to bear the cost," says White, who oversees retail agriculture for the Farm Bureau.
The USDA estimates a $3 to $6 million a year cost for organic broiler chicken farmers -- like in Northeast Indiana -- to comply with the proposed changes.
And White says the changes for organic producers could also herald an expensive shift for the rest of the industry. He says they've seen something similar happen with cage-free eggs.
The Farm Bureau and others are submitting comments about the new rules to the USDA. Public comment has been extended and now closes on July 13.