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Agriculture Today

Animal ID costs may crush small producers

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Wilson County News
June 27, 2012 | 3,663 views | Post a comment

As U.S. ranchers wait for the final version of the second animal disease traceability identification program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Inspection Service Veterinary Services, 16 groups have flagged the potential costs involved with implementation of a revised plan. In a June 6 letter sent to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Office of Management and Budget, the groups asked for an accurate economic impact report prior to the implementation of an animal disease traceability program.

In the proposed plan, only animals moved interstate are required to have identification and the program will be administered on the state, not federal, level as first proposed.

In the first phase-in of the plan, according to the Aug. 12 Federal Register, animals subjected to the proposed rules include “sexually intact cattle and bison 18 months of age or over, dairy cattle, and cattle and bison used for rodeos, recreational events, show, or exhibitions.”

When the USDA reaches a goal of 70-percent compliance, all cattle will be subject to tagging -- regardless of age.

In a June 7 R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) press release, R-CALF USA and the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance raised concerns, while submitting data from North Dakota University to cite the inaccuracies within the proposed identification plan.

Judith McGeary, vice chair of the Secretary of Agriculture’s Advisory Committee on Animal Health, addressed concerns about the second animal traceability version, first announced in a February 2010 Wilson County News. She explained the purpose of the June 6 letter and said the intrusive program will affect family farmers, ranchers, agri-business, and others.

McGeary, also executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, said June 8 that the USDA has forwarded the final rule to the Office of Management and Budget for review, and this is the “last step before publishing it as law.” She said, “Although we cannot be certain about the contents of the final rule ... the core concerns we had about feeder cattle, record-keeping requirements, or poultry” have not been addressed.

The Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Animal Health “submitted recommendations in response to the proposed rule last winter,” McGeary said. “The Committee did not, however, play any role in the development of the proposed rule.”

“As a member of the Committee, I submitted a request for USDA to provide data on not only the costs of the program, but the successes and failures of the existing program,” McGeary added. “Many of these questions remain unanswered as of today.”

When asked why agency officials did not address the concerns about underestimating the costs involved, McGeary responded.

“This is an excellent question and I don’t have an answer to it,” she said. “Thousands of organizations and individuals raised concerns about the costs of NAIS [National Animal Identification System] and this new proposed rule, yet the agency’s cost-benefit analysis was seriously deficient. I can only speculate that the large corporations that want mandatory tracking in order to promote their export markets do not wish to have the full costs acknowledged.”

McGeary provided a copy of the June 6 letter to the Office of Management and Budget to the Wilson County News. For more on the alleged underestimated costs, see related article below.

A second issue raised -- especially of concern in Texas, where state funding is being cut -- is that no mention is made of who is to pay for the extra costs.

“The USDA’s proposed rule did not address who would pay the costs, but presumably they will fall on the producer,” McGeary said.

While these are only two areas these groups addressed, McGeary also said the committee asked that the USDA separate the feeder cattle portion for a separate comment period.

“... but it does not appear that they plan to do that,” she said.

Now the ag sector waits for the USDA to release its final version of an animal traceability plan. The impact and final costs involved may prove difficult for independent ranchers and family operators. But at this point, no one knows for sure.

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