Groups weigh in on traceability proposal

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After the USDA released its proposed rule for animal-disease traceability Tuesday, several livestock and agricultural groups issued statements, some in support and others opposed to the program.

NCBA was relatively non-committal. The group’s chief veterinarian Elizabeth said “Cattlemen’s top priority is raising healthy cattle. As such, NCBA is supportive of an ADT program for cattle health purposes. That is why NCBA has been an industry leader working diligently with other cattle groups and USDA’s APHIS to ensure cattlemen’s concerns are addressed in a new ADT program. “NCBA commends APHIS for its recent efforts to listen to concerns of America’s cattlemen in developing this traceability program. NCBA encourages the agency to continue working with industry leaders on this and all animal health issues. We will carefully analyze and comment on APHIS’s proposed ADT rule. NCBA will continue to actively work with like-minded industry groups, state animal health officials and APHIS throughout the entire rulemaking process to ensure the best interests of our members.”

R-CALF USA, on the other hand, expressed opposition to the plan, issuing a release titled “USDA spurns U.S. cattle industry: Issues overreaching, intrusive mandatory animal identification rule.”

R-CALF specifically opposes the plan’s exclusion of brands as an official identification method for cattle moving through interstate commerce, and USDA’s intent to eventually require traceability for feeder cattle as well as breeding cattle. “In direct defiance of fundamental recommendations to preserve branding as a means of official animal identification,” the release reads, “and to not include cattle less than 18 months of age in any national animal identification system made by R-CALF USA and several other U.S. livestock groups, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service today released an early version of its proposed rule to implement a national animal identification system titled “Traceability for Livestock Moving Interstate. 

The group also opposes the 90-day comment period, saying Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s Advisory Committee on Animal Health recommended at least a 120-day public comment period for the proposed rule. R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard says the 90-day comment period will run at a time when tens of thousands of livestock producers are battling perhaps the nation’s most widespread and devastating drought and coincides with the cattle industry’s busy calf-weaning and calf-shipping season.

 “USDA is running roughshod over the U.S. livestock industry with its bureaucratic ‘we know better than the entire industry’ attitude,” says Bullard. “USDA officials have deceived livestock producers by pretending to seriously consider producer recommendations and then springing these unworkable and unacceptable mandates on us in its proposed rule.”

The National Farmers Union responded more favorably to the proposed rule. NFU President Roger Johnson says “The proposed rule USDA revealed today is a step in the right direction for animal disease traceability. We recognize that this will not prevent disease, but it does create a systematic approach to allow for swift response when there are issues. “The ability to trace, track and quarantine livestock during a disease outbreak will help minimize the economic impact it will have on the agriculture industry and rural America. NFU policy supports USDA’s action to leave animal identification for disease management to the states. We encourage USDA to move this rule through the full rulemaking and implementation process quickly.”

The Livestock Marketing Association seems open to the plan, pending further review and industry input into the final rule. Livestock markets, naturally, worry about requirements that could add time, labor and expense to the marketing system. LMA plans to review the proposed rule “to determine if it meets the markets’ expectations: that it is practical, workable and the most cost-effective ID/traceability plan possible for their businesses, their customers, and all segments of the U.S. cattle industry.”

The release from LMA goes on to say “Many of the issues surrounding the proposed ADT program have been worked out between USDA and the industry, and in particular, with the 12 national beef cattle, dairy and marketing organizations brought together by LMA to form the Cattle ID Group (CIDG).

“We believe our work and that of the CIDG has been highly successful in developing and re-shaping many elements of the program that USDA is releasing for comment today. While a thorough review of that proposed rule by all the parties involved is certainly called for to determine if areas of concern or disagreement remain, we are confident that any such issues can be worked out through the industry’s comments on the proposed rule.

“America’s livestock markets have long been a focal point for animal identification and livestock disease traceability.  For years, LMA has worked long and hard with federal and state authorities, and our industry partners, to shape ID and traceability programs that are practical, workable and cost-effective. Those are the same elements we expect and need to see in the final ADT program.”

 The American Veterinary Medical Association meanwhile, applauds the proposed rule. "We commend the collaborative approach taken by USDA-APHIS to develop this proposed rule and look forward to providing our comments," says Dr. Ron DeHaven, chief executive officer of the AVMA. "From a veterinary perspective, preventing and controlling the spread of infectious disease is paramount to protecting our nation's herds and flocks and maintaining a safe food supply. While the rule has yet to be finalized, the AVMA will continue to be an active voice for veterinarians and will work with the USDA to ensure that the final rule provides for an effective animal disease traceability system while minimizing the burden on those responsible for its implementation.

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Doug McCloy    
New Mexico  |  August, 13, 2011 at 03:47 PM

How can a brand identiy what state an animal came from after it leaves it's home state ?

TX  |  August, 18, 2011 at 11:24 AM

How can a tag that has been removed, altered, or damaged, identify what state an animal came from after it leaves it's home state? No tag that I have ever seen or used, metal or plastic, will last the lifetime of a 10-20 year old cow in range conditions. A brand lasts the lifetime of the animal. All of my cows are branded and tagged. They all have their brands, but only about half, still have their tags. The biggest cattle thief in recent Texas history was caught by a permanently marked calf, not a tagged calf. Tags don't even slow down cattle thieves, brands do. Most of the time they will pass by a branded animal to go steal a tagged one. Bottom line: For years, cattle moving interstate are required by law to go to a veterinarian for health papers and clearance. The brand is recorded the same way a tag number is recorded along with the source and destination address. That is how they can be tracked and should be via the health papers, if this is truly about animal disease traceability. The sad fact is that it is not really about animal disease traceability.

Dub Jenkins    
Missouri  |  August, 14, 2011 at 09:22 AM

R-CALF is sold out to antifarming activists. They will learn what doubledealing does for you when the new playmates turn on them.


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