(Press Release): R-CALF USA Animal Identification Committee Chair Kenny Fox provided a written response last week to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS’) recent blog article by Dr. John Clifford, APHIS’ Deputy Administrator and Chief Veterinary Officer. In that article, Clifford staunchly defended the agency’s new mandatory animal identification plan that would remove the hot-iron brand from the list of official animal identificati on methods universally available to U.S. cattle producers.

Fox said Clifford’s article is a perfect example where actions speak louder than words. 

“Clifford claims his agency is complying with promises made by Agriculture Secretary Vilsack in February 2010 and his agency recognizes the value of brands,” Fox said adding, “But, Clifford’s article indicates USDA has materially altered its position, is demoting the brand, is reducing flexibility for producers, States and Tribes, and these changes constitute a broken promise.”

Fox cited USDA’s February 2010 explanation of its new plan that contains a promise to provide cattle producers with the flexibility to choose the type of identification device that works best for them, including the choice to continue using a hot-iron brand.

“Under Dr. Clifford’s altered plan, the choice to use a registered brand to ship cattle in interstate commerce is no longer an option for individual cattle producers, nor is it an option for individual States or Tribes,” Fox explained.

“Instead,” Fox wrote in his response to Clifford, “the option to continue using brands to identify cattle in interstate commerce will only be available if two States and/or two Tribal Nations mutually agree to continue using the brand despite its demotion from the list of approved official identification devices.”

Fox added, “Individual cattle producers are being left out in the cold because while they may have the ability to influence their own State’s or Tribe’s decision to continue recognizing brands, they certainly have no influence over the second State or second Tribe that also must grant permission before brands can be used for identification. This is a bad deal for independent U.S. cattle producers.

“Your blog makes it clear that USDA intends to break its promise to U.S. cattle producers and we find such a dishonorable action not only unbecoming of a federal agency, but also, unacceptable,” Fox concluded in his response.