Browsing Posts tagged hot-iron brand

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. 

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.

# # #

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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The Denver Post

As USDA turns to ear tags over brands, cattle ranchers fear end of tradition

Ordway rancher John Reid holds some of the irons he uses to brand livestock on his ranch, the Reid Cattle Co. The USDA is expected to release new interstate rules requiring individual cattle to be identified by a number stamped on an ear tag. (Aaron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post )

The future of the hot-iron brand, an icon of Western heritage, is at the center of a nearly decade-long battle over cattle identification and traceability.

“It’s the latest hot lightning rod,” said John Reid, an Ordway rancher who is past president of the Colorado Independent Cattle Growers Association.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected soon to release a draft of new regulations, which will remove the hot-iron brand from its list of official identification for cattle sold or shipped across state lines.

The new rules will require each animal to be identified by a number stamped on a removable ear tag.

States would still be able to use brands as official IDs within their boundaries.

Individual agreements between states can be reached to allow brands as official IDs for interstate movement — more complications.

Critics fear this is the beginning of the end for America’s centuries-old branding tradition.

“The federal government’s action sends a signal to the entire industry that the ear tag is a superior means of identification,” said Bill Bullard, chief executive of the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund.

Ranchers argue that ear tags can fall off or be stolen by thieves, so are not a good form of official ID.

State brand commissioner Rick Wahlert said nothing will change for the state’s cattle producers.

However, the new system is a critical element of participation in the interstate beef market, he said.

Negative reaction to the new rules, he said, “is really about change, and a fear of the government being in your business.”

Gerald Schreiber, a third-generation rancher in northeastern Colorado, already uses ear tags for identification within the herd but bristles at the new regulations.

“It sounds good on the surface, but anytime you get the Big Brother approach, I don’t trust it,” he said. “The brand has worked for 1000 years, I don’t know why they want to disregard it. In the West, branding is more than just a tradition; it’s our identity as ranches.”

First proposed in 2002, the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) was rolled out in 2004, but flatly rejected in USDA listening sessions by over 90% of the cattle producers.

Producers across the country are skeptical about the new program, which would require radio-frequency ear tags that would let cattle be tracked from slaughterhouse to birth.

Their concerns ranged from potential costs to confidentiality of information, including fears that animal-rights advocates would be able to gain information on ranchers through the use of the federal Freedom of Information Act.

“It got pretty ugly,” said Ordway rancher Reid.

From 2004 to 2009, the USDA spent $142 million on NAIS, according to a Congressional Research Service report to Congress. Because it was a voluntary program, less than 30 percent of cattle producers participated.

In February 2010, the USDA announced it was abandoning NAIS due to mass rejection by livestock producers. Now a new name and a new program has evolved called Animal Disease Traceability.

Loss of tradition

The draft of the proposed USDA rule was due in April but has been delayed. It is now expected to be released within weeks, followed by a 60- to 90-day period of public comment. It will take an additional 12 to 15 months before the final rule is released.

“Americans want two things,” Rohr said. “They want to know their food is safe, and they have an interest in knowing where their food comes from.”

Still, the plan to remove the hot-iron brand as an official method of ID across state lines has angered Westerners, who worry about a loss of tradition and the addition of more red tape to their businesses.

“The piece of the deal that is awfully hard for producers to understand is that most disease comes from meat processing plants more than individual cattle or cattle herds.” Reid said.

The brand is the oldest and more permanent form of herd identification, while ear tags, with their unique numbers, can easily fall off in brush and trucks where cattle frequent.

“So the question is,” said Reid, “do we need individual ID or is herd ID enough?”

Note:Sec Vilsack knows that 16% of the US 2010 consumed beef was imported. He knows that for the last 21 years the USA has not produced enough beef to feed the nation. Why then, pray tell, does he think it is important to export beef to China, much of which has to be purchased outside the USA? Why would the marble halls of USDA contain people so far removed from the real world to assume it commercially feasable to force mandatory electronic ear tags on nearly a hundred million US cattle just to sell a few ocean containers of beef to China? Who comes up with this math? The cattle ID enforcement brain-child is not about exporting! It is not about livestock disease!

–Editor

Inside U.S. Trade

Daily News

Vilsack Indicates New Traceability Rule Will Help Exports, But Exact Impact Unclear

Posted: May 23, 2011

A soon-to-be-released proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) imposing a mandatory animal traceability system will help win more market access for U.S. meat producers by enhancing the ability of the U.S. government to respond to an animal disease outbreak, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said at a May 12 House Agriculture Committee hearing.

“One of the concerns that we often hear from our trading partners is [about] the capacity to basically trace back at least to the state of origin any problem with animal health, which is why this traceability system is important,” Vilsack said.

Only about 30 percent of cattle producers participate in the current, voluntary traceability system, Vilsack said, and the current system does not “provide us the certainty and the guarantee” that the new system will. “So we think we’re going to get much more acceptance from this effort, and that should reassure our trading partners,” he said.

One meat packing industry source agreed that a comprehensive traceability system is important to expanding exports of beef to the European Union, which has so many information requirements for imports that traceability while not expressly required is necessary nevertheless. A mandatory system could enable more companies to ship there, he said.

Japan, which currently restricts access to its market to U.S. beef exports from cattle younger than 20 months, may be more willing to further open its beef market in light of a new, mandatory traceability system, this source said, because the United States could argue it is better equipped to deal with any animal health problem.

While the new system is intended to be comprehensive and mandatory, it is unclear whether it would meet the demands of all U.S. trade partners.

For instance, China has demanded that the United States implement a system that allows cattle to be traced back not only to their state of origin, but to the farm where they were born. China has said the United States must meet this condition before it will accept beef imports from the United States (Inside U.S. Trade,Nov. 12).

A spokeswoman for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) would not comment on whether the new proposal would be able to meet that requirement. She also would not give a more firm timeline for the proposal’s release than the one offered by Vilsack, who said it would be published by “late spring or early summer.”

But there are signs that the program would not go as far on traceability as China has demanded.

While mandatory, the new program will only apply to animals moving interstate, as these animals pose the biggest risk for spreading disease nationwide, according to a March USDA report giving the initial outlines of the proposal.

Before cattle are moved and sold across state lines, they will be affixed with a tag that bears a code indicating the state or American Indian tribe of origin and a unique numeric identifier. The state or tribe where the animal originated will then be responsible for maintaining detailed information of the animal’s origin.

This means that, in the case of a disease outbreak, it could be traced back tothe farm from which it came.

But Bill Bullard, CEO of the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF), said in an interview that while the system strengthens the government’s current ability to conduct trace-backs, it will likely not enable the government to trace back all cattle to their place of birth.

For example, if a cow changed hands several times within a state before being moved across state lines, state records would reflect only the farm where the cow was held last. That said, authorities could rely upon brands or other records kept by ranchers to trace the animal back to its farm of origin in these instances, Bullard said.

In the case of a cow that was raised and slaughtered in the same state and never moved to another, it is possible that no records would be kept under the new system. So-called “slick cows,” those with no brands and no ear tag, could also cause potential identification problems if record-keeping was not detailed, Bullard acknowledged.

So could a cow whose ear tag had fallen off, he added one reason his organization is pushing USDA to maintain the hot-iron brand as a recognized form of official identification.

The focus of the program is cattle, although it will also include changes to the way horses and poultry are tracked; regulations on swine, along with sheep and goats, will not be affected, according to the USDA report.

According to a spokeswoman for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the new rule will be announced on the APHIS homepage and posted on Regulations.gov for a 60-day comment period.

“Once the comment period has closed, no comments will be accepted,” the spokeswoman said. “Consideration and response [to] all submitted comments will appear in the final rule 12 to 15 months after the close of the comment period.”

Bullard said the forthcoming proposal addresses the primary criticisms of the failed National Animal Identification System program (NAIS): that a traceability system would violate ranchers’ confidentiality and leave them unfairly exposed to liability suits in cases of food poisoning. They had also worried about the cost of the program.

The new proposal solves these issues by storing information in databases at the state level or with tribes, rather than at the federal level, where it could potentially be subject to freedom of information requests, Bullard said.

Ranchers worried that kind of producer data could be used by meat packers to gain leverage in negotiating prices, or by people who became sick after eating bad meat and wanted to sue everyone in the supply chain, he explained.

Allowing the use of cheap, metal ear tags instead of the more costly electronic tags proposed under NAIS also largely solves the problem of cost, Bullard said.

Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said he was not familiar with the upcoming proposal but emphasized that his group has favored a voluntary approach in the past.

“Our policy has supported voluntary traceability programs,” Stallman told reporters at a May 17 press lunch, adding that some of the group’s members are involved in animal identification for more premium markets.

“There’s some involved in that,” he said. “So they’re not [all] opposed to the idea of traceability. What they’ve been opposed to is who has the information and how much is it going to cost, and how’s the information going to be used,” he said, echoing similar worries to those expressed by Bullard.

But Bullard called other parts of the forthcoming proposal a “broken promise” to his members because USDA had assured them that hot-iron brands would still be considered official identifiers under the new system, and that cattle under 18 months old would not be covered.

Bullard said the latest draft of the proposal recognizes only metal or electronic ear tags as official identifiers and would begin to cover cattle of all ages once 70 percent of cattle older than 18 months roughly the breeding age have been registered in the tracing system.

This version of the proposal has been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget and should be released soon, he added, but R-CALF is urging USDA not to publish it until those provisions are changed.

His group wants branding to be recognized as a universal identifier because ear tags can easily fall off, or be replaced by thieves. Under the proposal, brands could only be recognized through special state-to-state agreements. In the interview, Bullard also said that including younger “feeder” cattle in the system is unnecessarily burdensome.

“Our position is, there has been no demonstrated need to identify these younger animals,” Bullard said.

“We have been highly successful in eradicating diseases by focusing only on the breeding herd. And so we want to focus on the breeding herd, and when that is accomplished, we want to do a needs assessment to determine if the additional cost and burden upon the industry outweigh the benefits of the program.”

“We believe that these feeder cattle are already sufficiently traceable during their relatively short lifespans,” he added, “[and] that there is no need to mandate their identification at this time.”

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