R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America

 

“Fighting for the U.S. ! Cattle Producer”

 

For Immediate Release                                                                         Contact: R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard

December 20, 2011                                                                                          Phone: 406-252-2516; r-calfusa@r-calfusa.com

 

8 Days of Opposition to USDA’s Proposed Mandatory Animal Identification Rule:  Part VII of VIII-Part Series

Billings, Mont. – As promised, R-CALF USA has launched an 8-day series of news releases to explain in detail many of the reasons our members vehemently oppose the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS’) proposed mandatory animal identification rule titled, Traceability for Livestock Moving Interstate (proposed rule).

With this effort, R-CALF USA hopes to bring to light many of the dangerous aspects associated with the proposed rule that R-CALF USA described in its voluminous comments submitted to APHIS on Dec. 9, 2011. Click here to view the entire 41-page comment submitted by R-CALF USA, which includes all of the group’s citations to specific references that are removed from this news release to save space.

Part VII:  APHIS’ Proposed Rule Discriminates Against Brand Inspection States and Brands

  1. APHIS’ Proposed Rule Discriminates Against States that Require Brand Inspections and Brand Inspection Certificates as a Condition for Leaving a Brand Inspection Area and Discriminates Against Cattle Producers Within Those States that Pay for and Rely on Brands and Brand Certificates to Identify Their Cattle
  1. USDA-APHIS has deceived U.S. cattle producers by proposing to remove brands from the list of official animal identification devices or methods.

APHIS’ proposal in the proposed rule to delist the hot-iron brand accompanied by a certificate from a recognized brand authority as an official form of animal identification constitutes a broken promise made by USDA to U.S. cattle producers.  In February 2010, USDA stated in regard to its new animal disease traceability framework, which has materialized into the proposed rule:

USDA will maintain a list of official identification devices, which can be updated or expanded based on the needs of the States and Tribal Nations. There are many official identification options available, such as branding, metal tags, RFID, just to name a few (EXHIBIT 10). (Emphasis added.)

Cattle producers have been outright deceived by USDA due to APHIS’ proposal to remove brands from the list of official identification devices or methods. The construction of the above sentence, along with the usual and customary meaning attached to its words and phrases, unambiguously implies that brands will remain an official identification option on USDA’s list of official identification devices or methods. Only under a perverted interpretation of that sentence could it mean otherwise.

The consequence of APHIS’ action strips from the states and tribes the option to decide to continue relying upon the brand accompanied by a brand certificate from a recognized brand authority to identify livestock. This reduces flexibility for states and tribes to adopt a system that works best for them. In addition, it strips from individual producers within each state the flexibility to decide to continue their reliance on the brand, which flexibility each individual producer could influence by persuading their respective states’ elected officials.

Under the proposed rule, however, the decision to use brands must be made jointly by two or more states or tribes. Thus, any single state or tribe would be subject to decisions made outside their jurisdiction regarding their ability to use brands for identification. This is an affront on state sovereignty. Moreover, the rights of individual cattle producers in a brand state to continue relying upon their brands would be subject to the decisions made in other states, over which they would have no control.

And, the proposed rule would effectively discriminate against cattle producers in states with mandatory brand inspection programs, which are funded in whole or in part by producer fees, by not reimbursing the producers for the cost of brand inspection fees paid when those producers leave the jurisdiction of their brand inspection authority, which generally is the state’s border, when they are required by APHIS to apply a new form of animal identification.  If APHIS does not reimburse producers that are required by their respective state to obtain a brand inspection before leaving their state, and if APHIS nevertheless requires them to incur the cost of applyi! ng a second form of identification (i.e., requires them to apply an ear tag in addition to their preexisting brand), then APHIS would effectively financially disadvantage those producers in interstate commerce by the per head cost for their mandatory brand inspection.

At the very least, USDA-APHIS has an absolute moral and ethical obligation to treat U.S. cattle producers honestly and fairly. Stating one thing and doing another is dishonest and unfair. In this case, USDA-APHIS stated one thing and did another without providing any notice to the public that it had deviated from its official commitment. Regardless of any rationalization USDA-APHIS may espouse to defend its deviant action, it has acted dishonestly, unfairly, and deceptively. For this reason alone, USDA-APHIS must restore the brand’s rightful status as an official animal identification device and withdraw its proposed ru! le.

R-CALF USA encourages readers to share this information with their neighbors, state animal health officials, and their members of Congress. 

 

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R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com  or, call 406-252-2516.