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News Update

August 10, 2011

USAHA Encourages Stakeholder
Comment on Proposed Traceability Rule

The United States Animal Health Association (USAHA) encourages all animal health stakeholders to review and provide comment on the proposed animal traceability rule, published Aug. 9 in the Federal Register. The rule follows 18 months of work to develop a revised plan for a workable livestock traceability system in the United States.

“We are pleased to see the publishing of this rule, after months of effort by USDA collaborating with states, tribes and industry to reach this point,” says Steven Halstead, president of USAHA. “USAHA looks forward to reviewing the details of the rule and providing feedback to continue meaningful progress on animal disease traceability. We would encourage all those with a stake in animal health to provide comment.”

The proposed rule, which applies only to interstate movement of animals, is administered at the State and Tribal levels. The system will be designed to allow for flexibility, and encourage the use of low-cost technologies. USDA has indicated it wants to ensure that the process for implementation is transparent through the federal rulemaking process.

“The goal of the system is to assist animal health officials in minimizing impacts of disease outbreaks on commerce, and maximize the ability of producers to conduct their business,” says Halstead. “USAHA appreciates the outreach of USDA in this process of evaluating a complex task. Many have put in significant effort over the years, and it is time for meaningful traceability to become reality.”

In February 2010, Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new, flexible framework for animal disease traceability in the United States. USDA has hosted several public meetings, as well as working closely with its State-Tribal working group since that time. Additionally, USAHA partnered with the National Institute for Animal Agriculture to host a traceability forum last summer, to enhance the dialogue and move toward consensus points regarding traceability.

“USAHA has supported a traceability system that focuses on interstate commerce, allows state or tribal database administration, and encourages permanent individual or group animal identification,” adds Halstead. “That being said, we must remain diligent to do so in a cost-effective manner, not only for producers but every taxpayer.”

The proposed rule will be published in the August 11 Federal Register, with a 90-day comment period. View the rule and related information at

NCBA Statement on Animal Disease Traceability Rule

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Chief Veterinarian Elizabeth Parker issued the following statement regarding the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) proposed animal disease traceability (ADT) rule, which appeared in the Federal Register Aug. 9, 2011.

“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.”

USDA and Corporate Agribusiness
Continue to Push Animal ID Scheme

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today released a new proposed rule for mandatory animal traceability. While USDA already has traceability requirements as part of existing animal disease control programs, the proposed rule goes much further to require animal tagging and tracing without specific disease threats. The rule has raised significant concerns among family farm and ranch advocates, who accuse the agency of failing to provide a coherent, factual explanation of the program’s necessity.

“USDA brags about the success of past programs, but has abandoned the principles that made them successful,” argued Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA. “Past programs were based on sound science and were developed in response to the transmission, treatment, and elimination of specific identified diseases. USDA’s new approach is a one-size-fits-all approach that does not specifically aim at the control of livestock diseases.”

The proposed rule greatly expands what animals must be identified, including feeder cattle, which are processed at a young age and never enter the breeding herd.

“The large volume of the animals that USDA proposes to track could overwhelm the capabilities of state agencies, making it impossible to retrieve useful data if there is in fact a disease outbreak,” stated Gilles Stockton, a Montana rancher and member of the Western Organization of Resource Councils. Stockton also serves on the USDA Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Animal Health.

The proposed rule creates new requirements for not only animal owners, but also for businesses associated with livestock. For example, veterinarians and auction barns would be required to keep records on every tagged animal for a minimum of five years.

“On the one hand, the agency points to diseases with long incubation periods, such as tuberculosis, to justify these extensive new recordkeeping requirements,” notes Judith McGeary, Executive Director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance and vice-chair of the USDA Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Animal Health. “But, at the same time, the agency plans to require the same paperwork on feeder cattle, which are butchered between one and two years of age. So the majority of the records that the vets and auction barns will store will be on animals that died years before. All this does is impose unnecessary burdens on small businesses, accelerating the loss of independent businesses to corporate industrial-scale agribusiness.”

“Consumers need the USDA to start focusing on the animal health and food safety risks posed by industrialized meat production,” said Patty Lovera, Assistant Director of Food & Water Watch. “If USDA devoted as much energy to preventing animal diseases as it has to promoting animal tracking, our food system would be in much better shape.”

The USDA has presented its traceability scheme as an animal health program, but it has emphasized the importance of the export market to the United States in promoting its new plan.

The powerful meatpacking lobby has continued to push for such mandated traceability requirements in order to develop international standards for exports. Critics have suggested this is not in the American public’s best interest, however, since the U.S. is a net importer of beef and cattle and the profits from the export market go to a small handful of massive meatpacking companies.

“If Americans don’t want their food supply to cave like the banking and housing industries, they need to urge the USDA to re-write the rule to address the needs of family farmers rather than the meatpacking lobby,” stated Mark Kastel, senior farm policy analyst at The Cornucopia Institute.

NFU Commends USDA’s Proposed Rule
on Animal Disease Traceability

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson released the following statement in response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiling a proposed rule on animal disease traceability:

“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.”

Deficit Reduction Plan Creates Opportunity for Significant Changes to Future of Farms, Farmland and Food

“The various budget deficit talks that have gripped the attention of Washington these past months have finally resulted in a plan to reduce our nation’s deficit,” says Jon Scholl, president of American Farmland Trust (AFT). “While we are thankful that this crisis has been dealt with, we also know that the plan will have serious implications for the future of U.S. agriculture and its ability to provide food, fiber, fuel and stewardship of our natural resources.”

The plan agreed upon last week will address the nation’s budget deficit by requiring $900 billion in immediate cuts and then over $1 trillion in cuts either via a “super committee” of 12 members of Congress, or through automatic cuts if the committee cannot come to agreement.

“We do not know what these cuts will mean for farms, farmland and food since the immediate and longer-term cuts have not been fully mapped out for each area in the federal budget,” adds Scholl. “However, it is clear that agriculture will need to do more with less.”

“I believe the next farm bill can be transformational,” Scholl says. “Our country must now make big decisions about the nature of government and how it will spend our money, and agriculture and food policy will be no exception to that rule.”

Scholl notes that many of today’s farm programs and rural development efforts have been in place for decades, with the last major overhaul of Title I occurring in 1996, and conservation programs evolving since 1985. “Congress is now asking very different questions. Rather than asking how a program works, or how it can be improved, they are asking what is the appropriate societal benefit for the program, what is the role of government, and how can we ensure programs best serve producers and society?”

These different questions could lead to a transformation of farm policy next year. “I am excited about the prospects for change because at American Farmland Trust we know that protecting farm and ranch land, and keeping farmers on their land, providing healthy and safe food and addressing environmental concerns are the top priorities of the majority of Americans — priorities that we believe will be better reflected in future policy choices,” Scholl said.

AFT is already at work on the next farm bill. “Farmers and ranchers acting through their policymakers have an opportunity to set a long-term vision for agricultural policy in the next farm bill,” added Scholl. “It’s always exciting to go through a process and know that you can end up with better policies and programs.”

Although excited by the prospects of new policy, Scholl is concerned that the farm bill might be pushed through Congress on a very tight timeline — as little as 10 weeks. “A farm bill that is not deliberate and well-thought out could be a long-term disaster for agricultural policy. In the spring, Chairman Lucas (R-OK) indicated that he needed time to get his committee up to speed and ready to write a bill. While the House has had many hearings to review how programs work, neither they nor the Senate have spent equal time examining what the future holds for programs. I agree with Chairman Lucas, we need the time and some semblance of normal order to work through what could be a transformational farm bill,” Scholl concludes.

Marketing Workshop Focuses on Ranch Commodities

Making ends meet during dry times is the subject of a multicounty ranch management workshop slated for 8:30 a.m. Sept. 13 at the Ozona Convention Center. The program will be conducted by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service offices in Crockett and Sutton counties.

“We’re used to dry weather in West Texas, but nobody here has seen it quite like this,” said Chase McPhaul, AgriLife Extension agent in Crockett County. “This workshop has some varied topics, but all are meant to be sewn together to help area producers manage their way through this drought.”

Topics will include:

Three Texas Department of Agriculture continuing education units will be offered for those with a private applicators license.

Individual registration is $10. Lunch will be served. RSVP by Sept. 9 so an accurate meal count can be made.

For more information or to RSVP call the AgriLife Extension office in Crockett County at 325-392-2721.

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