R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America

 

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

 

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

December 22, 2011                                                                                          Phone: 406-252-2516; r-calfusa@r-calfusa.com

 

8 Days (Now 10) of Opposition to USDA’s Proposed Mandatory Animal Identification Rule:  Part IX of X-Part Series

Billings, Mont. – To minimize the size of the last scheduled news release in R-CALF USA’s 8-day series, R-CALF USA extended the series for two additional days. Each daily news release provides a detailed explanation 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 IX:  The Agency’s Disdain for Brands, Inclusion of Feeder Cattle, and Failure to Disclose Documented Reasons for Untimely Disease Tracebacks Demonstrate APHIS’ Insincerity 

  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. APHIS’ inexplicable failure to include hot-iron brands accompanied by a certificate from a recognized brand inspection authority as a group/lot identifier is unscientific.

APHIS has failed to recognize brands as an official means of providing group/lot identification, under any circumstance. This is more than just alarming because of the obvious fact that each animal in a group of branded cattle is traceable even in the event the group/lot identification number is lost or destroyed, or in the event the group of animals, or any member of the group of animals, is inadvertently separated. APHIS cannot make this claim for any other group/lot identification device it is proposing.

The ability to identify each individual member of the group as a member of the group is scientifically and practicably superior to any of the group/lot identification devices proposed by APHIS in the proposed rule. It is unconscionable that APHIS would reject the single most effective means of group/lot identification, and the only means that would enable a trace back of a group/lot that inadvertently becomes separated or for which the paperwork is lost or destroyed.

APHIS must universally recognize the hot-iron brand accompanied by a certificate from a recognized brand authority as an officially approved group/lot identification method. Further, U.S. cattle producers that move in interstate commerce a group/lot of branded cattle accompanied by a certificate from a recognized brand authority should have no further obligation to place any other type of animal identification on their cattle. When the group lot arrives at its destination, which may be another brand state wherein the cattle likely will be rebranded, the buyer or buyers of those cattle should be responsible for applying any type of identification that may be required by the receiving state if the group is to be separated. I! f the group is not separated, e.g., if the entire group is sold to a feedlot for finishing, than the owner or manager of those cattle in the receiving state should have no obligation to apply any other form of identification.

  1. Under no circumstances should APHIS include feeder cattle in any mandatory animal identification rule.

The U.S. all but eradicated diseases such as bovine TB and brucellosis by focusing on the identification of breeding cattle only. The principal culprits that have caused the resurgence of those diseases are imported cattle (primarily from Mexico, see supra) and wildlife reservoirs. APHIS has the authority, recourses and means to fully prevent the continual reintroduction of disease that are spread by imported cattle as well as to minimize disease reservoirs in wildlife, but it refuses to implement stricter import standards and effective wildlife mitigations. Instead, USDA wants to burden the owners! of our nation’s 31.4 million beef mother cows with its onerous, overreaching rule that effectively forces U.S. cattle producers to pay costs associated with other country’s disease problems and site-specific wildlife problems. This proposed rule is anything but a scientific, risk-based proposal.

APHIS has failed to explain how past disease programs were so “tremendously successful” without ever imposing mandatory identification on feeder cattle and why, suddenly, APHIS deems it necessary.

As stated above, the cost of ear tagging the 2010 calf crop, again using APHIS’ estimate that 3.1 million calves already bear official identification, would be between $554 million and $880 million. This cost would be expected to be incurred year after year if feeder cattle were subjected to the proposed rule. Even using APHIS’ grossly understated cost of $4.68 per head, the proposed rule would cost U.S. cattle producers $152.6 million annually.

For comparison purposes, APHIS estimates the annual cost to states and the federal government for bovine TB testing is $2.6 million. However, this cost does not come close to justifying the mandatory imposition of hundreds of millions of dollars in additional costs on U.S. cow/calf producers.

  1. APHIS has failed to disclose the full nature of the problem the proposed rule is intended to address or to explain how the proposed rule would be expected to correct the serious problems APHIS failed to disclose.

APHIS has failed to disclose significant problems that have been identified in its disease traceback operations and has failed to explain how the proposed rule would be expected to correct those problems. For example, APHIS attempts to justify its proposed rule on the basis that some bovine TB investigations exceed 150 days.  See supporting document, at 8.  APHIS, along with other proponents of the proposed rule’s precursor – NAIS – alleged that because of what they call an “outdated system of tracking outbreaks of animal diseases to their sources (EXHIBIT 26, p. 5);” and a “lack of any official identification” with which to determine the “specific origin of the subject animal . . .[and] without movement data (EXHIBIT 7, p. 3),”  disease traceback investigations have taken too long to conduct.  Both the American Veterinar! y Medical Association (AVMA) and APHIS cited the same statistics to su pport their allegations:  AVMA stated, “Investigators spent an average of 199 days tracing the sources of animals infected with bovine tuberculosis between October 2005 and August 2007 (EXHIBIT 26, p. 5).” APHIS stated, “The average time spent conducting a traceback involving 27 recent bovine tuberculosis investigations was 199 days (EXHIBIT 7, p. 4).”

However, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted an audit of APHIS’ control over its bovine TB eradication program in September 2006. According to the audit, the OIG found that a lack of identification on individual animals was not the sole source of APHIS’ problem in conducting its bovine TB investigations. In fact, the OIG found that over half of the investigations that were closed with an outcome of “untraceable” were animals that were identified with eartags, but the eartags either were not collected at the time of slaughter, had been removed by the feedlot prior to slaughter, or were unable to be traced because there was no requirement to maintain records (EXHIBIT 27, p. 38).  Equally important, the OIG found that APHIS’ disease eradication efforts were hampered because the agency was not using its oversight tools in a timely manner, i.e., not timely reviewing and responding to the annual and monthly summaries of program results submitted by States nor was it properly reviewing States for program compliance (EXHIBIT 27, p. 5-9). The OIG also found that APHIS was not following Federal regulations for declaring affected bovine TB herds, which weakened the agency’s ability to contain and eradicate the disease and resulted in no additional controls being put in place for the majority of bovine TB cases detected in the past 5 years (EXHIBIT 27, p. 11-14). The agency was also cited for not timely downgrading the TB status of States after the agency knew that the disease was not isolated in one herd (EXHIBIT 27, p. 16-17); not having adequate controls to restrict the introduction of bovine TB in Mexican cattle (EXHIBIT 27, p. 19-21); not requiring slaughtering facilities to conduct surveillance at the recommended rate (EXHIBIT 27, p. ! 22-24); not monitoring high-risk herds and the corresponding on-farm testing that is required (EXHIBIT 27, p. 28-29); and not providing sufficient training to investigators so investigations could be completed in a timely manner (EXHIBIT 27, p. 22, 25, 28).

APHIS has failed to provide the livestock industry with sufficient data to identify all significant problems associated with current animal disease traceability systems and provide documentation to show how any new animal disease traceability system would be expected to resolve any such specific problems. The systemic problems described above are internal management problems that impede disease control and eradication as well as disease investigations and would not be solved by implementing the proposed rule.

Because the proposed rule fails to address how APHIS intends to address the systemic problems disclosed and discussed above, it is as likely as not that APHIS’ internal management problems would continually hamstring disease investigations and no measurable improvement would be made to the timeliness of the Agency’s disease investigation simply by imposing an outrageously expensive identification requirement on U.S. cattle producers.

 

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