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New grassfed beef option for small farms

In April, small, grass-fed beef producers received some great news. U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service announced the creation of a new certification option for smaller, grass-fed beef producers. The Grass-Fed Program ...

In April, small, grass-fed beef producers received some great news. U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service announced the creation of a new certification option for smaller, grass-fed beef producers. The Grass-Fed Program for Small and Very Small Producers arose out of the Grass-Fed Marketing Claim Standard within USDA's Process Verified Program.

Under the new certification process, small farm and ranch operations marketing fewer than 50 head of cattle each year will have the opportunity to label their product as consistent with the USDA grass-fed label claim, but through an easier, less expensive application process. Giving small-scale operations access to the strict USDA label claim will help create and enhance opportunities for smaller farms and ranches.

The Center for Rural Affairs partnered with longtime Nebraska grass-fed producers and advocates such as Chuck and Bev Henkel of Norfolk, Neb.; Tom German of Holstein, Iowa; and Terry Gompert of Center, Neb., to host a farm tour demonstrating what a 100 percent grass-based system entails and even traveling to Washington, D.C., to lobby USDA to dramatically improve the final rule. The input from these producers and others across the country was instrumental in achieving the stricter standard, which went into effect in 2009 and was necessary to protect the grass-fed market that family farmers and ranchers worked for years to establish.

USDA deserves credit for taking the grass-fed label this additional step, and for providing smaller ranchers and farmers with new marketing and economic opportunities.

Editor's note: Bruckner is a senior associate for agriculture and conservation policy at the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Neb.

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