Browsing Posts tagged cattle industry

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. 

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America

 

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

 

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

December 19, 2011                                                                                          Phone: 406-252-2516; r-calfusa@r-calfusa.com

 

8 Days of Opposition to USDA’s Proposed Mandatory Animal Identification Rule:  Part VI 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 VI:  APHIS’ Proposed Rule Is Unscientific and Discriminates Against Cattle Producers Unlucky Enough to Live in a State Where Major Packers do not Operate Packing Plants.

  1. APHIS’ Proposed Rule Ignores Differences in Risk Inherent to the United States’ Diverse Cattle Industry; Is a One-Size-Fits-All Solution to an Ill-Defined Problem; and, Contradicts APHIS’ Pledge to Manage Animal Health Using a Risk-Based Approach to Trade and Disease Management

APHIS has long advocated that trade-related disease management and domestic disease management be addressed using a scientific, risk-based approach, as opposed to, presumably, a precautionary-based, geopolitical-boundary-based, or one-size-fits-all approach.

APHIS stated in 1997 that its goal “was to create a mechanism to establish regionalized, risk-based import requirements that are consistent with obligations of VS [APHIS Veterinary Services] under the World Trade Organization’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement (EXHIBIT 20).” (Emphasis added.)

As discussed in Part V of this series, the Deputy Administrator of APHIS represented that APHIS was opposed to the voluntary Beef Export Verification program from its inception. He claimed at the time of its inception that trade decisions should be risk-based and stated in regard to the Beef Export Verification program:

It could have been avoided if there were a more practical, risk-based approach to trade with countries, such as Canada, that have had only isolated occurrences of BSE and have responded aggressively with appropriate mitigation measures. (EXHIBIT 19).

In a July 2007 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) regarding APHIS’ efforts to implement the national animal identification system (NAIS), the GAO stated that APHIS officials told GAO that the agency did not expect that equal levels of involvement in the NAIS across all species “will be necessary, and that new, risk-based participation benchmarks for premises registration, animal ID, and animal tracking may be developed accordingly, which could vary by species.” (EXHIBIT 21, p. 13).

In a July 2009 report describing APHIS’ action plan to address bovine TB, APHIS explained it was proposing to replace the current split-state status system used to address bovine TB with a risk-based approach that imposes movement restrictions that associate with a zone rather than an entire state (EXHIBIT 22, p. 8).

In a September 2010 concept paper for a new approach to address brucellosis, APHIS stated its new approach to managing brucellosis would “employ a flexible risk-based disease management system (EXHIBIT 23, p. 14).”

The foregoing discussion clearly reveals APHIS’ ongoing intention of using a risk-based approach to trade as well as for managing domestic disease issues. The proposed rule, however, is the antithesis to a risk-based approach to either trade or disease management. This is because the proposed rule expressly targets all livestock that are imported and exported among and between each and every geopolitical, state boundary, i.e. it targets livestock engaged in trade between and among each of the 50 states. Thus, the imposition of the proposed rule would be an economic burden on all domestic trade in livestock between and among each state, regardless of the degree of risk associated with livestock from any state.

Not only is the proposed rule void of any risk-based consideration, but also, APHIS’ implementation of the proposed rule would constitute unfair and discriminatory treatment against domestic cattle producers when compared to foreign cattle producers. This is because domestic cattle producers that must cross a state boundary to access a slaughter plant would be required to incur the cost of APHIS’ mandatory animal identification scheme as a precondition to marketing their products into the U.S. beef supply chain. Foreign cattle producers, however, are not required by APHIS, or any other agency of USDA, to participate in any mandatory animal identification scheme as a precondition for marketing their products into the U.S. beef supply chain, regardless ! of whether they must ship cattle across provinces, states, or departments within their respective countries to access a slaughter plant that is eligible to export beef into the United States.

Thus, the proposed rule would financially disadvantage certain U.S. cattle producers who have no option other than to cross a state line to access a slaughter facility while the U.S. cattle producers’ competitor – foreign cattle producers – remain unencumbered by any U.S. requirement to meet the same standards as a precondition for marketing the beef commodity in the U.S. beef supply chain.

Further, the proposed rule discriminates against U.S. cattle producers who must cross state boundaries to access a U.S. slaughter plant when compared to U.S. cattle producers that reside in a state with one or more slaughter plants. Because only those producers who must cross state lines to access a slaughter plant would be compelled to bear the cost of an APHIS-mandated animal identification scheme, U.S. producers who do not need to cross state lines to access a slaughter plant would be accorded an economic advantage in the U.S. beef supply chain by not having to comply with APHIS’ mandatory animal identification scheme.

The effect of the proposed rule, therefore, would be to financially discriminate against every U.S. cattle producer who is not lucky enough to conduct his or her cattle business in one of the few states in which the handful of remaining meatpackers have decided to set-up a slaughter plant. For example, If Cattle Feeder A is equidistant from a slaughter plant as Cattle Feeder B, but Cattle Feeder A must cross a state boundary to access the slaughter plant, then APHIS’ proposed rule has accorded Cattle Feeder B upwards of a $27.00 per head financial advantage in the marketplace because APHIS’ proposed rule would not require Cattle Feeder B to pay the mandatory cost of identifying cattle.

APHIS’ proposed rule is oblivious to the fact that known disease reservoirs (including wildlife and foreign countries) and locations where cattle are comingled are the most likely and second most likely, respectively, source of a potential disease outbreak. The location where breeding-age cattle are comingled with known disease reservoirs and with imported cattle should be the origination point for any form identification program, not at the point where a farmer or rancher ships cattle interstate. An interstate shipment of breeding-aged cows from a closed herd is least likely to be the subject of a disease investigation. USDA’s proposed rule completely ignores this fundamental and science-based principle. Only by issuing best practices guidelines and working with the states to assist them in developing a program that works best for t! hem can USDA even hope to achieve a science-based and functional disease-traceback program for the entire United States.

The foregoing discussion demonstrates that APHIS’ proposed rule, which imposes a requirement to incur the cost of mandatory animal identification based solely on whether livestock cross a state boundary, which requirement is oblivious to whether or not the livestock originate from an area of negligible risk or high risk for any disease, would financially advantage some cattle producers while financially disadvantaging many others. As a direct consequence, the proposed rule would interfere with domestic commerce by financially discriminating against cattle producers based solely on where they live in the United States, and those that would be discriminated against when compared to domestic cattle producers also would be discriminated against when compared to foreign cattle producers.

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.   

 

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America

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

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

December 15, 2011                                                                                          Phone: 406-252-2516; r-calfusa@r-calfusa.com

8 Days of Opposition to USDA’s Proposed Mandatory Animal Identification Rule:  Part II 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 II:  By Deploying the Underhanded Tactic of “Bait-and-Switch,” APHIS Deceptively Scared the Livestock Industry, Congress, and the Public Into Falsely Believing that a Mandatory Animal Identification System was Absolutely Critical to Protect the U.S. from Foot-and-Mouth Disease

  1. APHIS’ Flip-Flop Regarding Its Principal Justification for a Mandatory Animal Identification System Demonstrates that APHIS has an Ulterior Motive for the Proposed Rule that Is Unrelated to the Prevention or Control of Animal Diseases

Remarkably, while APHIS touted the risk of FMD introduction and spread as the principal justification – indeed its “poster-child disease” – for a national animal identification system (NAIS) in the years, months and days leading up to its publication of the proposed rule, FMD is no longer included among the diseases APHIS identifies as justification for its proposed rule. In fact the voluminous, 28-page proposed rule does not even mention FMD, let alone reference it as a disease APHIS would expect to prevent or control should it finalize its proposed rule. Any mention of FMD is now relegated to a small, hypothetical and ambiguous section in APHIS’ supporting documents, in which APHIS provides the disclaimer that its hypothetical FMD discussion “does not specifically model conditions that may exist under the proposed rule;” and in whi! ch APHIS provides no explanation regarding how its proposed rule would, in any way, protect against a potential outbreak or spread of FMD.

It is abundantly clear that while APHIS has long assigned substantial weight to the potential to mitigate FMD introduction and spread in the United States in its historical and ongoing effort to impose a national animal identification system on the U.S. cattle industry, it has now completely abandoned its flagship disease.

In its 2008 risk evaluation of South Korea, APHIS described in detail South Korea’s evolving national animal identification system to highlight the system as a measure to effectively mitigate FMD spread following a FMD outbreak (EXHIBIT 6, pp. 24, 25). Similarly, in recent congressional testimony, APHIS testified that Japan had adopted a national animal identification system and that the need for such a unified national animal identification system had assumed greater urgency in the U.S. due to FMD (EXHIBIT 7). APHIS further claimed that a national animal identification system would be critical in mitigating the risks posed by potential FMD outbreaks, and vehemently argued that the costs of a national animal identification system must be compared with the estimated billions of dollars in losses th! e U.S. would be expected to suffer from a FMD outbreak (EXHIBIT 7). Recently, in APHIS’ risk analysis section of its risk evaluation for the agency’s proposed rule to regionalize a Brazilian state, APHIS describes Santa Catarina’s animal identification systems in significant detail and claims the systems would allow officials to trace the movement of cattle within Santa Catarina, presumably to mitigate the spread of a FMD outbreak in Santa Catarina (EXHIBIT 8, pp. 45-47). Then, within just days of publishing the proposed rule, APHIS published a notice of availability (notice) and request for comment that referenced its APHIS Evaluation of the Foot and Mouth Disease Status of Japan risk analysis as the basis for deciding whether to resume trade in FMD-susceptible products with Japan (see 76 Fed. Reg. 44503-504 (July 26, 2011)). APHIS stated in its notice: “The risk analysis will also serve as the basis for our determination whether to allow the resumption of the importation of whole cuts of boneless beef from Japan.” Id., 504, col 1. APHIS’ referenced risk analysis regarding the potential risk of FMD introduction from Japan stated, “Japan’s cattle identification system ensures adequate trace-back capability in the event of an [FMD] animal disease outbreak” (EXHIBIT 9, p. 17).

As demonstrated above, APHIS for many years concocted a virtual taxpayer-funded fervor, both publicly and within the entire U.S. livestock industry, to advance its goal to establish a mandatory animal identification system in the United States – which goal manifested into the proposed rule – principally, if not exclusively, by claiming a mandatory animal identification system is essential to prevent the introduction and/or spread of FMD in the United States. APHIS’ absolute silence regarding any potential for the proposed rule to mitigate the introduction or spread of FMD in the U.S. is inexplicable and provides compelling e! vidence that APHIS has an ulterior motive for proposing the proposed rule, which ulterior motive has absolutely nothing to do with prevention or control of animal diseases.

APHIS’ proposed rule is a complete scam. APHIS provides no support whatsoever for its proposed rule based on its multi-year, multi-million dollar (EXHIBIT 10, p. 1), taxpayer-funded public-relations and nationwide marketing campaign to hype a mandatory animal identification system as essential to protecting U.S. livestock from the most contagious disease known to cloven-hoofed animals – FMD; and, as will be discussed below, APHIS’ proposed rule directly contradicts APHIS’ claimed objective to carry out its statutory responsibilities using a scientific, risk-based approach.

APHIS’ inexplicable abandonment of the threat of an FMD introduction as its principal justification for a mandatory animal identification system as is clearly revealed in the proposed rule is akin to the hideous and unlawful scheme known as bait-and-switch in the retail industry.  Under a bait-and-switch scheme, retailers lure consumers into their establishment by advertising an item known to attract consumers; but, when the consumer arrives at the establishment, the item that lured them there is unavailable, and the retailer hopes the unsuspecting consumer will nevertheless purchase an alternative item. This deceptive tactic is precisely what APHIS has employed to coerce unsuspecting cattle producers to buy into the proposed rule – it aggressively advertised FMD as the principal disease ne! cessitating a mandatory identification system and when the proposed rule is published, FMD suddenly is abandoned as justification for the proposed rule, with only less contagious diseases remaining.

Like the victimized consumer duped by a retailer’s deceptive bait-and-switch scheme, cattle producers have no moral or ethical obligation to comply with APHIS’ equally deceptive bait-and-switch tactic deployed in the proposed rule, and they should have no legal obligation either.

If APHIS proceeds in any way other than to immediately withdraw the proposed rule, it must fully and comprehensively explain why APHIS abruptly abandoned FMD as a justification for the proposed rule. As part of that explanation, APHIS must describe in detail the specific role that a mandatory animal identification system played, if any, during the outbreaks of FMD that occurred very recently during this decade in the United Kingdom, South Korea, Japan, and Paraguay.  Specifically, APHIS must describe in detail the degree to which traceability in those nation! s reduced the spread of FMD or otherwise assisted in combating the disease.

Further, and in addition to the proposed rule’s failure to address APHIS’ historical insistence that a mandatory animal identification system is needed to address FMD, the proposed rule also fails to explain or describe what measures and operations APHIS will deploy to control or eradicate any specific diseases. APHIS’ authority to control or eradicate diseases (note that “control” and “eradicate” have very different meaning) is conferred by the AHPA’s authorization to carry out operations and measures for those purposes. (See 7 U.S.C. 8308 (a), (“The Secretary may carry out operations and measures to detect, control, or eradicate any pest or disease of livestock. . .”). However, the proposed rule is silent on any specific “operations and measures” the agency intends to carry out to eradicat! e or control any specific disease.

Due to this additional deficiency contained in the proposed rule, and if the agency proceeds in any way other than to immediately withdraw the proposed rule, the agency must explain and describe to the U.S. cattle industry:

  1. The specific diseases APHIS intends to “control” under the proposed rule.
  2. The specific nature of the “operations and measures” APHIS intends to use to “control” each of the specific diseases APHIS intends to “control” and a detailed description of the role of the traceability contemplated in the proposed rule in carrying out such “operations and measures.”
  3. The specific diseases APHIS intends to “eradicate” under the proposed rule.
  4. The specific nature of the “operations and measures” APHIS intends to use to “eradicate” each of the specific diseases APHIS intends to “eradicate” and a detailed description of the role of the traceability contemplated in the proposed rule in carrying out such “operations and measures.”

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.

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America

“Fighting for the U.S. Cattle Producer”

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

August 9, 2011 Phone: 406-252-2516; r-calfusa@r-calfusa.com

USDA Spurns U.S. Cattle Industry: Issues Overreaching, Intrusive Mandatory Animal Identification Rule

Billings, Mont. — In direct defiance of fundamental recommendations to preserve branding as a means of official animal identification and to not include cattle less than 18 months of age in any national animal identification system made by R-CALF USA and several other U.S. livestock groups, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today released an early version of its proposed rule to implement a national animal identification system titled “Traceability for Livestock Moving Interstate” (proposed rule).

The proposed rule would remove the hot-iron brand from among the list of official identification devices that cattle producers could choose to comply with the new federal mandate. It also encompasses cattle less than 18 months of age that would be triggered at USDA’s discretion one-year after USDA determines that older-aged cattle are substantially identified.

“The proposed rule, expected to be published in tomorrow’s Federal Register, not only spurns the U.S. livestock industries key recommendations regarding the hot-iron brand and younger cattle, but also, it snubs the critical recommendation by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s own Advisory Committee on Animal Health, which urged the Secretary to provide at least a 120-day public comment period for the proposed rule. Instead, Vilsack is only providing a 90-day public comment period,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.

Bullard said the 90-day comment period will run at a time when tens of thousands of livestock producers are battling perhaps the nation’s most widespread and devastating drought and coincides with the cattle industry’s busy calf-weaning and calf-shipping season.

According to Bullard, USDA’s rejection of its own advisory committee’s recommendation to give producers more time to respond to the 114-page proposed rule suggests it already has decided to force this unacceptable mandate on U.S. livestock producers.

“USDA is running roughshod over the U.S. livestock industry with its bureaucratic ‘we know better than the entire industry’ attitude,” said Bullard adding, “USDA officials have deceived livestock producers by pretending to seriously consider producer recommendations and then springing these unworkable and unacceptable mandates on us in its proposed rule.”

“It’s obvious that USDA did not listen to the multitude of U.S. livestock producers who participated in the agency’s nationwide NAIS (National Animal Identification System) listening sessions in 2009 and overwhelmingly opposed USDA’s efforts to force individual identification on younger cattle and any mandate that would limit a producer’s choice regarding how they identify their livestock,” said R-CALF USA President George Chambers.

Chambers said his group will be calling for new listening sessions to help USDA recall the serious concerns producers raised earlier but have since been either forgotten or ignored.

Chambers said the proposed rule severely restricts producer choices because it removes completely the option for a producer to unilaterally choose to continue using the hot-iron brand when shipping cattle across state lines.

“Under the proposed rule, individual producers cannot choose on their own to continue using the hot-iron brand to identify their cattle. Nor can an individual state on its own choose to identify the cattle leaving their state with a hot-iron brand. Only if two state governments mutually agree to use the now delisted hot-iron brand will that option be available to either U.S. cattle producers or individual states,” Chambers said.

He continued to explain, “USDA did not have to attack our industry’s hot-iron brand or add younger cattle to the proposed rule in order to improve animal disease traceability in the United States, but we believe it has chosen to do so to appease the World Trade Organization and other international tribunals.”

Chambers also explained that the proposed rule itself provides absolute proof that the hot-iron brand remains an effective means of identifying animals in interstate commerce:

The proposed rule expressly allows producers to use hot-iron brands on their horses when shipping across state lines. This provision completely obliterates USDA’s feeble argument that it cannot require the 36 non-brand program states to accept a registered brand originating in the 14 brand program states as an official identification device — that’s precisely what USDA is doing with horses. It’s clear USDA is misleading us to achieve some ulterior motive.

“This proposed rule reduces flexibility and reduces producer choices and we are urging U.S. livestock producers to aggressively oppose the proposed rule,” Chambers concluded.

The public can submit comments on the proposed rule by either of the following methods:

– Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=APHIS-2009-0091-0001.

– Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Send your comment to Docket No. APHIS-2009-

0091, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River

Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.

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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. R-CALF USA represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on trade and marketing issues. Members are located across 46 states and are primarily cow/calf operators, cattle backgrounders, and/or feedlot owners. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.

Note: The Proposed Rule can be viewed at http://r-calfusa.com/animal%20id/110809USDAProposedRule.pdf

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SAN ANGELO, Texas — Since a new framework for animal disease traceability was introduced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture last year, cattle raisers have been up in arms for fear that the centuries-old hot-iron branding methods may be on the way out.

Instead, the USDA wants every cow to have a unique numerical ID, stamped on an inexpensive ear tag, to make it easier to track animals from the ranch to feedlots and the slaughterhouse.

Even as the USDA says it never set out to undermine the traditional brand, cattlemen feel that when the government steps in it will make things more complex. They also fear the withdrawal of federal support for branding might embolden animal-rights activists who call the practice barbaric.

The new rules set to replace the National Animal Identification System were strongly opposed by numerous livestock industries and associations, including Fort Worth-based Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.

Although Western movies showing cowboys branding cattle with a hot iron have created the image that the practice started in the Old West, documented history gives verification the practice goes back thousands of years to the days of the ancient Greeks, Arabians, Romans and Egyptians.

Branding was actually introduced to the New World in 1541 by Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez. Branding of cattle became common in the United States after the Civil War. It was said that brands of every shape and design were on Longhorns coming out of Texas during the great trail drives of the 1800s.

Brands are registered in Texas by the county clerk of the county in which a rancher runs livestock. The brand must be registered by the county clerk for the brand to be considered a legal means of ownership. Texas brands have to be re-registered every 10 years.

When I worked for The Cattleman magazine in Fort Worth during the mid-1960s, a favorite assignment was visiting the brand department to research histories of cattle brands. The brands allow TSCRA special rangers quick identification of stolen cattle.

The cattle raisers association has 29 special rangers stationed strategically throughout Texas and Oklahoma who have in-depth knowledge of the cattle industry and are trained in facets of law enforcement. All are commissioned as special rangers by the Texas Department of Public Safety and Oklahoma’s law enforcement agency.

TSCRA market inspectors aid the special rangers by collecting brands and other identifying marks on 4 million to 5 million cattle sold at 115 livestock markets each year. The market inspectors report their findings to TSCRA’s Fort Worth headquarters, where the information is entered in a database retrieval system. It is that database a special ranger checks when receiving a theft call.

“Branding’s the simplest, most efficient way to do it. Why change?” Wil Bledsoe, a Hugo, Colo., rancher, recently told the Wall Street Journal.

“It is a great deal easier in court when stolen animals are fire branded. Prosecutors prefer to try cases where the animals have been branded,” said Scott Williamson of Seymour, a TSCRA special ranger.

Modern cattle rustlers would delight in the current highly promoted electronic ID. Any cattle rustler could easily remove, replace, change and/or cut off ear tags and electronic pins.

The goal of the new USDA framework should be to enable the cattle industry, state and federal animal health officials to respond rapidly and effectively to animal health emergencies, say TSCRA officials.

Cattle raisers remain engaged with state and federal animal health officials to ensure that any animal disease traceability program is solely for the purpose of responding rapidly and effectively to animal health emergencies and does not affect ranchers’ ability to market cattle, officials said.

Jerry Lackey writes about agriculture. Contact him at jlackey@wcc.net or 325-949-2291.

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America

“Fighting for the U.S. Cattle Producer”

For Immediate Release                                      Contact: R-CALF USA Communications Coordinator Shae Dodson-Chambers

Oct. 20, 2010                                                                                                        Phone: 406-672-8969; sdodson@r-calfusa.com

R-CALF Applauds USDA Decision to Proceed with GIPSA Rule;

Calls NCBA Attack on USDA Deceitful, Irresponsible

Billings, Mont. Today, U.S. Agriculture Vilsack reportedly declined the request by 115 members of Congress to complete a comprehensive economic analysis of the proposed competition rule (GIPSA rule) published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA). In a news release also issued today, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) called the Secretary’s actions “irresponsible” and asserted that the GIPSA rule “…could very likely result in financial devastation to a critical part of our country’s economy…”

“R-CALF USA fully supports the Secretary’s decision,” said R-CALF USA President/Region VI Director Max Thornsberry. “The call for a new economic analysis by less than a third of the House and NCBA was, pure and simple, an effort to delay – if not completely derail – the long-awaited GIPSA rule. NCBA could not be more deceptive in its attack on the Secretary given the Secretary had already granted NCBA an additional 90-day comment period in response to NCBA’s July 8, 2010, letter to USDA that asked for an extension of the comment period so NCBA could perform its own economic analysis.”

NCBA’s request stated, “Therefore, we need (NCBA needs) additional time to adequately perform a full legal and economic analysis on the impacts of this rule.”

“Now that NCBA received the accommodation it requested, it has suddenly changed horses in order to achieve an even longer delay in the rulemaking process,” said Thornsberry.

“NCBA’s allegation that the GIPSA rule will cause harm to the economy is absolutely baseless and irresponsible,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. “NCBA claims outright that the GIPSA rule will hurt producers because it could result in packers’ deciding to stop participating in marketing agreements with producers, which, NCBA claims, would result in all cattle being valued at an average price, regardless of quality.”

Bullard said this is evidence that NCBA is carrying the packers’ water by conveying the packers’ hollow threats directly to producers.

“This is the same sort of threat the packers made during the rulemaking for country-of-origin labeling (COOL) when packers threatened they would require producers to pay for third-party certification of origin claims, require producers to make their records available to the packers for ‘random producer audits,’ and pass all the costs associated with COOL onto producers,” he said. “Those were hollow threats then, and these are hollow threats today.

“There is absolutely no language in the GIPSA rule that would prohibit value-added or other legitimate marketing agreements between producers and packers,” Bullard continued. “These programs benefit packers as much as they benefit the producer, and the only way you could believe this NCBA nonsense is if there was absolutely no competition between packers for fed cattle or in the wholesale beef market.”

He pointed to the 2007 multi-million dollar study that Congress directed GIPSA to complete, which states in part, “Packers also identified AMAs (alternative marketing arrangements) as an important element of branded products and meeting consumer demand by producing a higher quality, more consistent product.”

Bullard said packers will not forgo the improved efficiency and profitability they gain through value-based marketing arrangements simply because the GIPSA rule would require them to maintain records that explain why price adjustments, including premiums and discounts, were applied to a producer’s cattle.

“We are dismayed by the outright scare tactics employed by NCBA and their meatpacking partners,” Thornsberry said. “But, we are pleased that USDA is not bowing to NCBA’s unscrupulous antics and is proceeding to finalize the GIPSA rule. In this rulemaking process, everyone has been given a full five months to submit their analyses and concerns, and these submissions will enable GIPSA to respond to and address any assertions of benefits and costs that were not already addressed in the proposed GIPSA rule that was made publicly available June 22.

“We’re not about trying to scare producers into opposing the most significant rulemaking our industry has seen in decades and one that holds promise to reverse the ongoing erosion of competition within our industry,” Thornsberry concluded. “Instead, we want producers to take a critical look at the rule itself and to formulate thoughtful comments that they can submit to USDA, which is how we can ensure that the rule will do what needs to be done to prevent the highly concentrated meatpackers from abusing their inherent market power.”

R-CALF USA encourages producers to read the rule, along with R-CALF USA’s summary of how the rule would impact the U.S. cattle industry by visiting http ://www.r-calfusa.com/Competition/gipsaRule.htm, and also encourages producers to submit their own written comments to GIPSA before the comment deadline of Nov. 22, 2010.

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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. R-CALF USA represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on trade and marketing issues. Members are located across 47 states and are primarily cow/calf operators, cattle backgrounder! s, and/or feedlot owners. R-CALF USA directors and committee chairs are extremely active unpaid volunteers. R-CALF USA has dozens of affiliate organizations and various main-street businesses are associate members. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.

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