R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America

 

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

 

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

December 23, 2011                                                                                          Phone: 406-252-2516; r-calfusa@r-calfusa.com

 

10 Days of Opposition to USDA’s Proposed Mandatory Animal Identification Rule:  Part X of X-Part Series

Billings, Mont. – Today’s news release is the final installment of the 10-day series in which R-CALF USA 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 it has brought 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 X:  APHIS’ Proposed Rule Is Based on False Information Regarding the U.S. Cattle Industry and Is an Affront to the Hard Working Men and Women in the U.S. Cattle Industry

  1. Additional Concerns Regarding APHIS’ Proposed Rule
  1. 1.      APHIS’ proposed rule is functionally deficient because it is silent on producer liability.

The proposed rule fails to address one of the most critical concerns raised by thousands of cattle producers during USDA’s NAIS listening sessions. That critical concern was producer liability. Under APHIS’ proposal, which is a book-end identification system, the person who applied the animal’s tag likely would be the primary suspect in any disease traceback, even if he/she sold the animal years earlier and the animal was later comingled with higher-risk Mexican cattle or trader cattle on multiple occasions. As a primary suspect, the original ear-tagger likely would bear the cost of testing and retesting his/her entire herd. This is unacceptable and APHIS has not even attempted to estimate the tremendous cost that U.S. cattle producers likely would bear as a result of APHIS’ proposed rule.

  1. 2.      APHIS’ proposed rule will significant disrupt interstate commerce by prohibiting the use of back tags on cattle destined for slaughter.

USDA’s proposed rule will significantly increase the cost of interstate movement by disallowing the use of expedient back-tags for cattle destined for slaughter. Back tags are a proven, effective, humane and expedient means of identifying cattle destined for slaughter and the elimination of this device will disrupt commerce, increase animal injuries, and add unnecessary cost to an industry incapable of passing additional costs to those that may benefit from USDA’s new imposition on cattle producers.

  1. 3.      APHIS justifies its proposed rule based on false cattle industry information and information that is too broad and ambiguous to meaningfully inform decision makers.

R-CALF USA remains concerned that APHIS continues to not only ignore the unique characteristics of the U.S. cattle industry, but also, it continually presents misleading information to the public. For example, APHIS’ supporting documents for the proposed rule states:

Although the total cattle inventory fell by 15 percent between 1979 and 2009, commercial beef production grew by 22 percent. The decline in cattle inventory has been offset by a 23 percent increase in the average dressed weight of federally inspected cattle.

APHIS, fails to inform the public that the 22 percent growth in beef production between 1979 and 2009 also was due to the influx of imported live cattle that were subsequently slaughtered in the U.S., with their resulting beef added to the United States’ commercial beef production. Live cattle imports from Mexico and Canada increased by 1,269,560 head between 1979 and 2009. Based on the average carcass weight in 2009 of 748 pounds, those imported cattle contributed about 950 million additional pounds to commercial beef production.  !

Commercial beef production increased from 21.262 billion pounds to 25.966 billion pounds between 2007 and 2009.  This represents about a 4.7 billion pound increase during that period. However, nearly one billion pounds (about 950 million pounds) of that increase was attributable to beef derived from imported cattle.  Therefore, the growth in commercial beef production attributable to increased dressed weights was less than 18 percent while the contribution of imports to that growth was 20 percent, i.e., beef from imported cattle accounted for approximately 20 percent of the growth in domestic beef production between 2007 and 2009.

Thus, APHIS’ assertion that the decline in cattle inventory has been offset by a 23 percent increase in the average dressed weight of federally inspected cattle is false. APHS would have been accurate to state, however, that 1.2 million head of the U.S. mother cow herd had been offset by the growth in imported cattle, which increased by 1.2 million head between 1979 and 2009.

Also, and as mentioned previously, APHIS describes the U.S. cattle industry as one in which the average number of cattle per cattle operation has increased to nearly 100 head for all cattle operations. This description fails to recognize, describe, or disclose the profound, segmented nature of the U.S. cattle industry. For example, in 2010 the average size of the U.S. beef cow herd was fewer than 42 head per herd; the average size of the U.S. dairy herd was 146 head; the average number of cattle in the 75,000 remaining farmer feedlots with capacities of less than 1,000 head was only 34 head per feedlot; and, the average number of cattle in the 2,140 commercial feedlots! with capacities of more than 1,000 head was 5,380 head per feedlot.

This information provides a far more accurate description of the U.S. cattle industry and provides far more valuable information to people making decisions that impact the U.S. cattle industry. R-CALF USA urges APHIS to be truthful and accurate when representing the U.S. cattle industry so as to avoid the propagation of erroneous information that invariably leads to bad public policy, such as APHIS’ proposed rule now under consideration.

  1. Conclusion.

There is absolutely no need for a federally mandated animal identification system. The 50 states already have animal health import and export rules that rely upon and reference existing official animal identification devices. If USDA wishes to assist the 50 states and the nation’s tribes to improve disease traceability, it should work in cooperation with the states, tribes and cattle producers to develop best practices guidelines for the import and export of cattle among and between the states and tribes and assist those states and tribes in developing specific programs that work best for them.

For all the foregoing reasons APHIS’ one-size-fits-all proposed rule is, at best, an absolute boondoggle and must be immediately withdrawn. If APHIS does not immediately withdraw the proposed rule, the U.S. cattle industry will suffer irreparable harm.

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