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.