The USDA’s final Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) rule went into effect Monday. Regulations are meant to improve the traceability of cattle, bison, equines, swine, sheep, goats, poultry and captive deer that are moving in interstate commerce. Official forms of identification are: National Uniform Eartag System (NUES) tags, other official ID approved by the USDA, and, “840 tags” which are 15-digit eartags reserved for U.S. born animals.
Animal health and well-being are among the priorities this year for the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association. MCA’s Executive Vice President Mike Deering tells Brownfield they’ll be working with the state vet and the state director of agriculture on trichomoniasis, “To make sure that we have a trich rule in the state that makes sense and that we allow producers to have a retest option. Most other states have a retest option. Missouri does not.”
Further, the new federal animal disease traceability (ADT) rule has been published at the federal level. Deering says, “The enforcement is going to be up to the states. So, we want to make sure that we have a program that does not disrupt the marketplace in the state and does not bear a financial burden, I guess, for producers.”
The Missouri Cattlemen’s Association and Missouri Farm Bureau are asking Ag Director Jon Hagler to re-establish the Missouri Animal Identification Advisory Committee for guidance on the new federal ADT system.
The American Veterinary Medical Association calls the USDA’s new animal traceability rule “a step in the right direction.” AVMA CEO Dr. Ron DeHaven, former administrator of the USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), says the new traceability rule is a good foundation upon which to build because it “establishes identification and documentation requirements for livestock moving interstate.”
The AVMA still advocates – though – for a mandatory, uniform national disease traceability and I.D. system that is the same from state to state. Dr. DeHaven says such a system would quickly and accurately trace “large numbers of animals moving during a large disease outbreak.” He says the AVMA wants a “comprehensive, electronic system.”
A coalition of livestock and related groups is urging the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to reject the USDA animal identification rule. They have met with OMB officials and have written a letter outlining their concerns.
R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard tells Brownfield their main concern is that the USDA grossly underestimated the cost that this animal ID system will have on independent cattle producers.
Bullard says, “USDA claims the cost will be low. We’ve submitted studies that show the cost is likely to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Bullard says this rule brings producers to the doorway of the USDA’s former National Animal Identification System, or NAIS, which was tamped down by the outcry in rural America, “So they tried to scale it back,” says Bullard, “And they are now going forward with the initial steps of a full blown mandatory government program that is imposing the obligation on every independent producer to identify every head of animal that they have on their farms or ranches.”
He says says the system is driven by the corporate ag lobby and export market potential at the cost of putting smaller producers out of business. Bullard says they believe the USDA’s current traceability requirements in existing animal disease control programs are sufficient.
The comment period on the rule ended last December. The White House budget review that is going on now is the final step before it would be enacted.
A family farming group is urging producers to comment on the USDA’s proposal on mandatory animal identification this week. Friday, December 9th, is the deadline. Rhonda Perry, with the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, says there are some positive changes from the former National Animal Identification System (N-A-I-S) proposal that so many farmers and ranchers were opposed to. Perry says, “While, they have made some improvements, certainly, it is not what we would want it to be and we still believe that it will have a negative impact on independent livestock farmers.”
The requirement for Premise ID is removed but others remain. Perry tells Brownfield, “They, at this point, are not including branding for example for as an official form of identification and that’s a problem for a number of cattle ranchers.”
And, Perry says, the new ID system is set up for an export market, adding, “That’s all fine and well but independent family farmers shouldn’t have to foot the tab for corporate agribusiness to export products. I think we need to maintain a voluntary system.”
Bottom line for Perry is they are opposed to any mandatory systems for producers that don’t address food safety issues on the other end, from the packers to consumers. She says producers are not the instigators of most food safety problems. By keeping it voluntary, she says, producers can comply if they wish for increased price and added value.
To comment on the Animal Disease Traceability proposed rule that was issued August 9th, go to aphis.usda.gov/traceability by December 9th, 2011.
With the December 9th deadline for public comments quickly approaching, cattlemen still seem to have more questions than answers about the new animal disease traceability system being proposed by USDA.
The executive vice president of Nebraska Cattlemen, Michael Kelsey, says the first phase of the plan—involving breeding cattle—would not be much different from what is already being done. But it’s the second phase of the plan—involving feeder cattle—where questions remain.
“Because not all feeder cattle, at this point in time, have to be identified,” Kelsey says, “depending on how they’re traveling—they do have to have health papers and so forth–but there’s some differences regarding what we currently do, as to what the rule would propose.”
Kelsey says his organization’s policy supports animal identification for disease surveillance—but he says it’s important that disease traceability does not become too burdensome or restrictive.
An official of the Nebraska Cattlemen (NC) organization says her group is pleased with the proposed animal disease traceability (ADT) rule from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. NC vice president of member services Melody Benjamin says the USDA did a good job of listening to the cattle industry’s concerns and the rule shouldn’t have much impact on the way most cattlemen operate.
Congress continues to work on food safety reform. That legislation is of key interest to pork producers, says Bob Dyhuis of Holland, Michigan, who serves on the National Pork Producers Council’s board of directors. During a Wednesday news conference at World Pork Expo, Dykhuis gave reporters an update on food safety reform bills in the House and Senate and also talked about NPPC’s stance on animal ID.
Congressman David Scott represents an urban district based in Atlanta, Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives. So it was somewhat surprising to learn that he also chairs the Livestock, Dairy and Poultry subcommittee of the House Agriculture Committee. However, in remarks to the Animal Agriculture Alliance Summit attendees, Scott showed he has a very good grasp of the issues facing animal agriculture. We talked to Scott about two of those issues—mandatory animal identification (which he favors) and livestock antibiotics. On the animal ID issue, Scott sees it as a matter of national security.
Nebraska director of agriculture Greg Ibach has some concerns with the USDA’s new animal traceability plan, under which states would be responsible for managing—and funding—traceability programs.
“Depending on what USDA’s baseline expectations are of a state, we could be very impacted,” Ibach says, “and in a time when budget resources are at high demand, we’re concerned that a program could be implemented that would cost our state, and our state’s producers, a significant amount of money.”
There are also questions involving the movement of animals from state to state.
“It would appear that states will be responsible for being able to provide traceability to their state’s border,” Ibach says, “and it will then be up to a state to determine how much more traceability within the borders of the state that we would work with producers to provide.”
Earlier this year, USDA announced that it is scrapping the National Animal ID system in favor of the new state-directed traceability program.