Browsing Posts tagged USDA

Downsize Government

Memo ~~ USDA knows 18% of the beef consumed in the USA was imported
in 2011 because the nation does not produce enough product to feed
it’s people, yet more costly rulemaking is assessed upon producers
by bureaucrats. This document is vague and impossible to determine
the teeth, however, be assured, the devil is in the details. Once
Hammerschmidt gets this approved and mandatory he will personally
add the teath. There will be no more listening sessions or public
comments — the federales will have their way, regardless of the
majoritie’s oppositon.

Yesterday, USDA submitted it Animal Disease Traceability Rule to the
White House Office of Management and Budget for final review. See
Below.
This is one obstinate agency.

 

AGENCY: USDA-APHIS RIN: 0579-AD24TITLE: Animal Disease Traceability
Neil HammerschmidtSTAGE: Final Rule ECONOMICALLY SIGNIFICANT: No
** RECEIVED DATE: 04/25/2012 LEGAL DEADLINE: None
RIN Data
USDA/APHIS RIN: 0579-AD24 Publication ID: Fall 2011
Title: Animal Disease Traceability

Abstract: This rulemaking would establish a new part
in the Code of Federal Regulations containing minimum
national identification and documentation requirements
for livestock moving interstate. The proposed regulations
specify approved forms of official identification for each
species covered under this rulemaking but would allow such
livestock to be moved interstate with another form of
identification, as agreed upon by animal health officials
in the shipping and receiving States or tribes. The purpose
of the new regulations is to improve our ability to
trace livestock in the event that disease is found.

Agency: Department of Agriculture(USDA)
Priority: Other Significant
RIN Status: Previously published in the Unified Agenda Agenda Stage
of Rulemaking: Final Rule Stage
Major: No Unfunded Mandates: No
CFR Citation: 9 CFR 90
Legal Authority: 7 USC 8305
Legal Deadline: None

Statement of Need: Preventing and controlling animal disease is the
cornerstone of protecting American animal agriculture. While ranchers
and farmers work hard to protect their animals and their livelihoods,
there is never a guarantee that their animals will be spared from
disease. To support their efforts, USDA has enacted regulations to
prevent, control, and eradicate disease, and to increase foreign and
domestic confidence in the safety of animals and animal products.
Traceability helps give that reassurance. Traceability does not prevent
disease, but knowing where diseased and at-risk animals are, where they
have been, and when, is indispensable in emergency response and in
ongoing disease programs. The primary objective of these proposed
regulations is to improve our ability to trace livestock in the event
that disease is found in a manner that continues to ensure the smooth
flow of livestock in interstate commerce.

Summary of the Legal Basis: Under the Animal Health Protection Act (7
U.S.C. 8301 et seq.), the Secretary of Agriculture may prohibit or
restrict the interstate movement of any animal to prevent the
introduction or dissemination of any pest or disease of livestock, and
may carry out operations and measures to detect, control, or eradicate
any pest or disease of livestock. The Secretary may promulgate such
regulations as may be necessary to carry out the Act.

Alternatives: As part of its ongoing efforts to safeguard animal
health, APHIS initiated implementation of the National Animal
Identification System (NAIS) in 2004. More recently, the Agency launched
an effort to assess the level of acceptance of NAIS through meetings
with the Secretary, listening sessions in 14 cities, and public
comments. Although there was some support for NAIS, the vast majority of
participants were highly critical of the program and of USDA's
implementation efforts. The feedback revealed that NAIS has become a
barrier to achieving meaningful animal disease traceability in the
United States in partnership with America's producers. The option we are
proposing pertains strictly to interstate movement and gives States and
tribes the flexibility to identify and implement the traceability
approaches that work best for them.

Anticipated Costs and Benefits: A workable and effective animal
traceability system would enhance animal health programs, leading to
more secure market access and other societal gains. Traceability can
reduce the cost of disease outbreaks, minimizing losses to producers and
industries by enabling current and previous locations of potentially
exposed animals to be readily identified. Trade benefits can include
increased competitiveness in global markets generally, and when
outbreaks do occur, the mitigation of export market losses through
regionalization. Markets benefit through more efficient and timely
epidemiological investigation of animal health issues. Other societal
benefits include improved animal welfare during natural disasters. The
main economic effect of the rule is expected to be on the beef and
cattle industry. For other species such as horses and other equine
species, poultry, sheep and goats, swine, and captive cervids, APHIS
would largely maintain and build on the identification requirements of
existing disease program regulations. Costs of an animal traceability
system would include those for tags and interstate certificates of
veterinary inspection (ICVIs) or other movement documentation, for
animals moved interstate. Incremental costs incurred are expected to
vary depending upon a number of factors, including whether an enterprise
does or does not already use eartags to identify individual cattle. For
many operators, costs of official animal identification and ICVIs would
be similar, respectively, to costs associated with current animal
identification practices and the in-shipment documentation currently
required by individual States. To the extent that official animal
identification and ICVIs would simply replace current requirements, the
incremental costs of the rule for private enterprises would be minimal.

Risks: This rulemaking is being undertaken to address the animal health
risks posed by gaps in the existing regulations concerning
identification of livestock being moved interstate. The current lack of
a comprehensive animal traceability program is impairing our ability to
trace animals that may be infected with disease.

Timetable:
Action Date FR Cite
NPRM 08/11/2011 76 FR 50082
NPRM Comment Period End 11/09/2011
Final Rule 08/00/2012

Additional Information: Additional information about APHIS and its
programs is available on the Internet at http://www.aphis.usda.gov.
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: No Government Levels

Affected: State, Tribal
Small Entities Affected: Businesses Federalism: No
Included in the Regulatory Plan: Yes
RIN Data Printed in the FR: No

Agency Contact: Neil Hammerschmidt
Program Manager, Animal Disease Traceability, VS

Department of Agriculture
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
4700 River Road, Unit 46,
Riverdale, MD 20737-1231
Phone:301 734-5571
______________________________________________________________________

 

Whose Country Is This?

by Lee Pitts

Lee Pitts is the Executive Editor of the Livestock Market Digest. His internationally syndicated columns and nine best selling books combine unflinching political commentary, humor, and serious livestock coverage with commentary blessed by a life time of experience. No one argues with Lee about the cattle business because he has been in the corrals and has scrapped a lot of "Stuff" off his boots many times. That is what it takes to gain authority, and he has.

There’s just something particularly galling about a secretive international tribunal telling a country, any country, what it can and cannot do. That’s especially true when a controversial trade organization tells us that we cannot inform the American consumer where her food came from.

According to every survey we’ve seen the vast majority of American consumers want labels on their food informing them of its origin. Some survey indicated that as many as 90 percent of American consumers want such country of origin (COOL) labels. Additionally, every survey we’ve ever seen indicates that the vast majority American ranchers also want the beef they raise to be labeled as being produced in the good old U.S. of A. So when American grocers finally began putting COOL labels on cuts of beef, lamb, chicken, pork, and hamburger it seems everyone got what they wanted. Everyone that is except the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the beef packer’s lobby, the National Pork Producers and an organization that most Americans know little about, the World Trade Organization.

Unfortunately for the ranchers and consumers it is this latter group, the WTO, who will decide whether or not American consumers and ranchers will get their wish to have the meat they produce and consume labeled as to country of origin.

How and why we in America ever gave an organization located in Geneva, Switzerland, the right to tell us what we can and cannot do is a dirty little secret being kept by supposedly patriotic American politicians, lobbyists and multinational American-based corporations who don’t want you to know any more about them than they do the food you eat.

I Pledge Allegiance To The WTO

Opponents of country-of-origin-labeling say it is nothing more than a protectionist trade measure that we are using to discourage imports. And these critics might have a point if all the food in the world was the same and was produced under the same rigid health and environmental standards. But clearly it is not. As proof we offer up milk from China that was contaminated with melamine, European and Canadian mad cows, four legged Mexican TB carriers and South American bovines with Foot and Mouth disease.

We’d like to point out amidst all the brouhaha that country of origin labeling does not stop one single animal from entering this country, nor does it prevent any country from selling us beef. Of these facts there can be no debate. What COOL does do is give the American consumer the ability to find out where the food she feeds her family came from. The decision on whether or not to buy foreign or domestic beef lies solely with her, not some bureaucrats at a meeting in Cancun. That’s why we were devastated after years of watching COOL work its way through the bureaucratic and political morass that after it was finally put in place the WTO said last November that it was illegal. Not according to American laws, but according to theirs.

I don’t remember the founding fathers ever mentioning the WTO, do you? I can’t find it anywhere in the Constitution or The Bill of Rights, nor do I recall ever getting a chance to vote on its leaders, or having a say in its proceedings. I can find no evidence that any of our founding fathers were members in good standing of the WTO.

Such is the sad state of American politics these days that we held out little hope that anyone in our government would challenge the WTO’s COOL ruling, so we were surprised and pleased when the office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced that it was appealing the WTO ruling against the U.S. mandatory COOL law.

One Family’s Food Fight

After COOL was put in place as a result of provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill, Canada then requested consultations with U.S. trade representatives in December of 2008 concerning their objections to it. Canada alleged at the time that the mandatory COOL was inconsistent with the United States’ obligations under the WTO Agreement.

Shortly thereafter, Mexico and Nicaragua announced they had problems with COOL, too, and requested to join the consultations. Then on November 19, 2009, a three-person WTO panel was formed and eventually came to the conclusion that yes, Canada and Mexico were right and that we had no right to implement COOL in the first place. The WTO panel determined that the COOL measure “is a technical regulation and that it is inconsistent with the United States’ WTO obligations.” In particular, the panel found that as a result of COOL we gave less favorable treatment to imported Canadian and Mexican cattle and hogs than to like domestic products.

By the words “less favorable treatment” we can only assume that the WTO meant that because American consumers would theoretically prefer domestic product over a foreign one, that COOL created a premium for U.S. beef and pork and a discount for Canadian and Mexican meat. Which, if you’ll recall, was the exact point made by COOL supporters to begin with. And the premiums recently being given to age and sourced domestic cattle seem to back that up, after all, those premiums are not all the result of our export market. Those cattle aren’t all being sold to Japan and Korea.

The WTO was created in the first place by one-worlders who think there should be no geopolitical boundaries and that we are all just one big happy family. To hear them tell it, all this fuss over COOL is just a food fight amongst family members.

A party can appeal a WTO panel’s ruling and due to the marriage of big business and government these days in Washington, we had little hope of that happening when it came to COOL. But on the last day an appeal could be filed came word of one. Now comes a two to three-month WTO process where yet another panel will meet behind closed doors to consider the appeal. (WTO appeals have to be based on points of law, such as legal interpretation — they cannot reopen factual findings made by the panel.)

As a result of the appeal we found out that the WTO never said in the first place that the U.S. does not have the right under WTO rules to adopt mandatory COOL. No, what the three-person panel didn’t like was the way COOL “provided less favorable treatment to Canadian and Mexican livestock producers.” They also did not like that “the COOL statute is more trade restrictive than necessary.” In other words, they did not like the fact that lo and behold, American consumers did actually prefer American beef and pork over imported beef.

Whose Side Are They On?

As to be expected from an organization that seems to be more interested in looking out for the interests of big packers than they do American ranchers, the NCBA quickly expressed their disappointment that the U.S. would even dare to file an appeal. “We are very disappointed in this decision,” said NCBA vice president Bob McCann. “Instead of working diligently to bring the United States into WTO compliance, our government has opted to engage in an appeal process, which jeopardizes our strong trade relationship with Canada and Mexico, the two largest importers of U.S. beef, An appeal is the wrong answer and a waste of valuable resources, This appeal will do nothing but escalate tension with our valuable trade partners and will prolong an issue that could be resolved quickly. We should be working toward a solution instead of creating a bigger problem.

“NCBA will engage with Canada and Mexico in order to prevent any retaliatory action that could occur from this unfortunate decision made by the U.S. government.”

Concluded NCBA’s McCann, “Cattlemen deserve a government that fights for and protects our opportunities. We need a government that not only demands WTO compliance of our trade partners but one that ensures the United States is abiding by these same guidelines.”

That bears repeating; in the words of the NCBA, what we need is a government that “demands WTO compliance.” One would think from such statements that the NCBA was getting its funding from the governments and stock raiser’s groups in Canada and Mexico, rather than the $50 million it gets each year from Beef Checkoff, funds paid overwhelmingly by American ranchers. (That 50 million dollars represents 80 percent of NCBA’s total revenue.) It should also be noted that the packers in the U.S. want their cheap imports to still be marked with a USDA inspection label to fool customers into thinking it’s a domestic product. The packers sure are getting a big bang for the buck they DON’T HAVE TO PAY to the checkoff.

Word Games

As you’d expect, R-CALF, who worked extremely hard to get COOL implemented, had a different take on the WTO appeal than the NCBA. “We’re extremely thankful that our U.S. Trade Representative has chosen to defend our constitutionally-passed COOL law,” said R-CALF COOL Committee Chair, Mike Schultz. “But, we’re in a no-win situation regarding this frontal attack on our COOL law because our nation should not tolerate for an instant a foreign entity’s efforts to undermine our constitutionally-passed domestic laws in the first place.”

As for NCBA’s role in the process, R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard had this to say: “Several powerful corporate industry groups are actually supporting the WTO’s efforts to undermine our U.S. COOL law, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the American Meat Institute (AMI). These groups don’t want U.S. consumers to know if they are buying beef produced exclusively in the United States or if their beef was produced in Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, or any one of the more than a dozen countries where U.S. corporations source their beef.”

Like us, R-CALF’s Bullard had a problem with the WTO panel word game in which they said, that yes, the United States has a right to implement a COOL program but that we implemented it in the wrong way. (They don’t say what is the right way.)

“This is nothing more than semantics,” said Bullard. “and the WTO is far too coy to have attacked our domestic law in any other way than it did. The fact is that the WTO accomplished its objective by ruling on the one hand that COOL was too rigid and treated foreign product less favorably than domestic product, but on the other hand, it ruled that COOL was too flexible and therefore nullified the COOL law’s objective.”

Our government is sure sending mixed messages to cattlemen these days. On one hand the USDA wants to be able to track our livestock from birth to the grocery store so that they supposedly can protect the consumer from foreign diseases, while on the other hand they don’t want supermarkets to tell their customers what country the meat they are selling came from. Is all this making sense to anyone?

“Nonsensical and Baseless”

In theory, members of the WTO gain access to each other’s markets on even terms. This means that no two nations can have sweetheart trade pacts without granting the same terms to every other nation, or at least every other nation in WTO. Granted, that’s a great concept and a worthy goal. But since the WTO was founded in 1995 it has proven that’s not at all what they are about. Some analysts have called the WTO, “The most powerful legislative and judicial body in the world.” What makes the WTO so powerful is that its rules can be enforced through trade sanctions. If, for example, the U.S. loses its appeal over COOL and then does not change or eliminate COOL, then we can be fined, or have trade sanctions imposed against us. In some cases WTO can even exact their pound of flesh by punishing industries not even remotely related to the one in question. This gives the WTO more power than any other international body, even eclipsing national governments like our own.

One look at their history shows the WTO has invariably chosen the agenda of multinational corporations above the interests of local communities, the environment, and working folks. Like the United Nations and the World Bank (who they work hand-in-glove with) the WTO has undermined democracy around the world by promoting the concept of a one-world government. And they do so in secret. While the WTO says that transparency is one of their goals, they often meet behind locked doors, especially after 50,000 people showed up at their meeting in Seattle in 1999 after watching the WTO prove to be just a cheerleader for multinational corporations. Those protesters successfully shut down that WTO meeting but rather than make reforms, the WTO instead just made their meetings and deliberations even more secretive.

It’s hard to find a fan of the WTO. The left sees the WTO as lobbyist for big business, while the right says they should get out of the way and let companies and countries do business on a deal-by-deal basis. Fortunately for all of us, the WTO hasn’t exactly been a raging success.

So stay tuned, a decision on the appeal to WTO’s ruling on COOL is expected within the next 60 days. In anticipation of that event R-CALF’s Mike Schultz says, “The WTO’s anti-COOL ruling is nonsensical and baseless and we are confident the United States will prevail in this unenviable appeal.”

Nonsensical and baseless, you say?

That’s the very definition of the World Trade Organization.

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 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

December 21, 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 VIII 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 is extending the series for two more 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 VIII:  APHIS’ Proposed Rule Is an Affront to the Cattle Industry’s Centuries-old Brand

 

  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’s proposed rule ignores the historical effectiveness, functionality and permanence of the hot-iron brand as a means of identifying cattle and groups of cattle.

 

APHIS is acutely aware of the superior permanence of the hot-iron brand as compared to ear tags.  In its final rule to allow the importation of Canadian cattle 30 months of age or older (OTM rule), APHIS distinguishes brands as “permanent identification,” while separately requiring, in addition to permanent identification, an official ear tag to be placed in imported Canadian cattle (EXHIBIT 24, p. 53378 col. 1). In fact, ear tags are not even mentioned as acceptable means of permanent identification, with only freeze brands, hot-iron brands, and tattoos expressly listed among the acceptable, permanent means of identification (EXHIBIT 24, p. 53378 col. 1). In addition to permanent identification, the OTM rule also requires the individual identification with an official ear tag of the country of origin (EXHIBIT 24, p. 53378 co! l. 1).

 

APHIS’ purpose for requiring permanent brands on Canadian cattle along with ear tags is succinctly explained in the OTM rule. APHIS stated, “We recognize that animals can lose eartags at various points in the process. . . (EXHIBIT 24, p. 53340 col. 1).”

 

The foregoing discussion reveals that for disease traceback purposes, even for cattle originating in regions that APHIS has deemed a “minimal-risk” for disease, APHIS requires a three-prong traceback system:  1) it requires the permanent identification of the animal using a brand or tattoo; 2) it requires individual identification with an official ear tag; and, 3) it requires visible information on the animal to denote the animal’s origin (EXHIBIT 24, p. 53379 col. 1).

 

R-CALF USA agrees that this three-prong traceback system is a science-based means of achieving functional traceability on livestock that may be subject to a disease investigation.  The system has needed redundancy to address the inherent propensity for ear tags to be lost, and it provides visible information that enables any person to identify the origin of the animal.

 

APHIS’ proposed rule fails completely to explain why the three identification elements needed from minimal-risk regions are not needed to provide a science-based traceback system for U.S. cattle. Nor does APHIS explain which of the three elements are most important to ensure the ability to conduct tracebacks, e.g., is it more important to have permanent identification or are loss-prone ear tags equally functional for disease tracebacks? And, APHIS fails completely to explain why the ability to visibly identify the origin of the animal is not even necessary for domestic traceback purposes.

 

If the requirement contained in the OTM rule is science-based, than the proposed requirements in the proposed rule are not.  This is because the proposed rule incorporates only one of the three elements required in the OTM rule, and the one it has incorporated is not even recognized by APHIS as a permanent form of identification. The proposed rule depends exclusively on an official ear tag that bears a U.S. shield and a number:  it does not require permanent identification (indeed it expels permanent identification from its list of official animal identification devices), and it does not require ear tags to bear visible information to i! dentify even the state from which the animal originated. APHIS further fails to explain why privately-owned U.S. cattle must bear a U.S. shield for the privilege of moving across a state line. Such a shield is of no use to disease investigators and if a shield is to be required at all, it should be the shield of the state from which the animal originated, at least then a person could immediately initiate a disease investigation by calling the animal heath officials in the state of origin should an animal be detected with a disease. Better yet, the animal should bear the shield of the property’s owner – which is precisely what is accomplished with a registered hot-iron brand.

 

APHIS contends it cannot require all states to accept brands because all states do not have brand inspection programs. At the same time, however, APHIS’ proposed rule requires all states to accept ear tags that do not allow any visible means with which to ascertain the origin of an animal. For example, the APHIS approved 840 ear tag does not contain an identifier that denotes the state of origin.  Therefore, an animal health official without immediate access to an expensive, electronic wand or a national database has no means of initiating an immediate traceback of the animal. On the other hand, if an animal was transported to a state with a brand, then the animal health official could immediately narrow the animal’s potential origin to those states that have a ! recognized brand authority that issues brand certificates. APHIS is disingenuous in its claim that non-brand states cannot accept brands while it simultaneously requires non-wand states to accept 840 electronic tags.

 

APHIS’ proposed identification requirements for cattle lack any scientific justification. APHIS has thrown the proverbial baby out with the bath water by refusing to adopt even the core elements of current U.S. disease programs that APHIS itself acknowledges were “tremendously successful” in the agency’s efforts to eradicate brucellosis.. See 76 Fed. Reg. 50081, col. 3. The highly successful brucellosis program, not surprisingly, incorporated each of the three prongs APHIS requires of Canada:  1) the program recognized brands as official identification, which provided a high level of redundancy; 2) the program required an official ear tag! ; and, 3) the ear tag contained visible information with which to immediately identify the state of origin.

APHIS’ claim that its goal is to shorten the time necessary to conduct disease tracebacks is proved false by APHIS’ failure to adopt the historically proven, simple, and visible state identifier, such as two-digit numeric code that denotes the tag’s state of origin, on all of its approved ear tags.

 

The role of the permanent brand in contributing to the United States’ “tremendously successful” disease program is profound. In a March 9, 2010, article by James C. Clement, D.V.M., Cow-Calf Research & Consulting, Dr. Clement explains the profound contribution that brands and brand programs make to generating animal tracking data every day, along with describing how critical tracking data are compiled.  Dr. Clement states:

 

Animal tracking data is generated every day in Brand States and is the byproduct of routine record-keeping processes that involve cattle marketing businesses and SBIS [State Brand Inspection Systems]. SBIS create inspection certificates associated with the movement of 27,000,000 head of livestock (primarily cattle) on an annual basis (EXHIBIT 25).

 

APHIS cites no study, nor does it have any nationwide experience in conducting animal disease tracebacks without relying upon the animal tracking data generated by brand states. Indeed, APHIS has not cited any system in the world that can hold a candle to the brand states’ ongoing generation of animal tracking data for 27 million head of livestock, primarily cattle, which represents about one-third of the entire U.S. population of cattle and calves.

 

APHIS has no scientific basis for delisting the hot-iron brand accompanied by a certificate from a recognized brand authority from the list of official animal identification devices or methods, or in any way demoting the hot-iron brand to a level below any other form of animal identification.

 

Based on the hot-iron brand’s role in generating animal tacking data for tens of millions of livestock, APHIS’ proposed rule that delists the brand from the list of official animal identification devices will reduce the United State’s ability to timely trace disease suspects to the disease source.

 

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 20, 2011                                                                                          Phone: 406-252-2516; r-calfusa@r-calfusa.com

 

8 Days of Opposition to USDA’s Proposed Mandatory Animal Identification Rule:  Part VII 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 VII:  APHIS’ Proposed Rule Discriminates Against Brand Inspection States and Brands

  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. USDA-APHIS has deceived U.S. cattle producers by proposing to remove brands from the list of official animal identification devices or methods.

APHIS’ proposal in the proposed rule to delist the hot-iron brand accompanied by a certificate from a recognized brand authority as an official form of animal identification constitutes a broken promise made by USDA to U.S. cattle producers.  In February 2010, USDA stated in regard to its new animal disease traceability framework, which has materialized into the proposed rule:

USDA will maintain a list of official identification devices, which can be updated or expanded based on the needs of the States and Tribal Nations. There are many official identification options available, such as branding, metal tags, RFID, just to name a few (EXHIBIT 10). (Emphasis added.)

Cattle producers have been outright deceived by USDA due to APHIS’ proposal to remove brands from the list of official identification devices or methods. The construction of the above sentence, along with the usual and customary meaning attached to its words and phrases, unambiguously implies that brands will remain an official identification option on USDA’s list of official identification devices or methods. Only under a perverted interpretation of that sentence could it mean otherwise.

The consequence of APHIS’ action strips from the states and tribes the option to decide to continue relying upon the brand accompanied by a brand certificate from a recognized brand authority to identify livestock. This reduces flexibility for states and tribes to adopt a system that works best for them. In addition, it strips from individual producers within each state the flexibility to decide to continue their reliance on the brand, which flexibility each individual producer could influence by persuading their respective states’ elected officials.

Under the proposed rule, however, the decision to use brands must be made jointly by two or more states or tribes. Thus, any single state or tribe would be subject to decisions made outside their jurisdiction regarding their ability to use brands for identification. This is an affront on state sovereignty. Moreover, the rights of individual cattle producers in a brand state to continue relying upon their brands would be subject to the decisions made in other states, over which they would have no control.

And, the proposed rule would effectively discriminate against cattle producers in states with mandatory brand inspection programs, which are funded in whole or in part by producer fees, by not reimbursing the producers for the cost of brand inspection fees paid when those producers leave the jurisdiction of their brand inspection authority, which generally is the state’s border, when they are required by APHIS to apply a new form of animal identification.  If APHIS does not reimburse producers that are required by their respective state to obtain a brand inspection before leaving their state, and if APHIS nevertheless requires them to incur the cost of applyi! ng a second form of identification (i.e., requires them to apply an ear tag in addition to their preexisting brand), then APHIS would effectively financially disadvantage those producers in interstate commerce by the per head cost for their mandatory brand inspection.

At the very least, USDA-APHIS has an absolute moral and ethical obligation to treat U.S. cattle producers honestly and fairly. Stating one thing and doing another is dishonest and unfair. In this case, USDA-APHIS stated one thing and did another without providing any notice to the public that it had deviated from its official commitment. Regardless of any rationalization USDA-APHIS may espouse to defend its deviant action, it has acted dishonestly, unfairly, and deceptively. For this reason alone, USDA-APHIS must restore the brand’s rightful status as an official animal identification device and withdraw its proposed ru! le.

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

 

# # #

 

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 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. 

 

# # #

 

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 18, 2011                                                                                          Phone: 406-252-2516; r-calfusa@r-calfusa.com

 

8 Days of Opposition to USDA’s Proposed Mandatory Animal Identification Rule:  Part V 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 V:  Marketplace Premiums for Traceable Cattle Will Evaporate Under the Proposed Rule

 

C. APHIS Grossly Understates the Economic Cost of the Proposed Rule that Will be Borne by U.S. Cattle Producers 

 

  1. 3.      APHIS’s cost estimates completely overlook and ignore the market value of the information intrinsic to an individually identified animal and the effect of APHIS’ proposed rule will be to steal that value from U.S. cattle producers and gift it to the U.S. meatpacking industry.

 

APHIS asserts the primary benefit of the proposed rule would be to minimize losses and quickly reestablish foreign and domestic markets. See 76 Fed. Reg. 50097, col. 3.  But, APHIS completely overlooks and ignores the fact that foreign markets already have assigned a market value to information that would enable traceability to the herd of origin. Primary export markets such as Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong already require beef exported to them to be from animals that are traceable. Japan requires beef to be derived from cattle t! hat are individually identified and traceable back to ranch records (EXHIBIT 16). South Korea requires beef to be derived from cattle that are of U.S. origin or fed in the U.S. for at least 100 days if they originate from Mexico or Canada, which requirement necessitates individual animal identification (EXHIBIT 17). Hong Kong requires beef from cattle that are traceable to the last location and to the herd of origin in the event of a BSE outbreak (EXHIBIT 18).

 

The fact that the above mentioned export markets each require some form of traceability of cattle from which the exported beef is derived indicates they each have assigned a market value for traceability and are willing to pay for that additional value in the price they pay for U.S. beef. This market driven incentive to provide traceability as a product attribute for foreign markets has already been embraced by many R-CALF USA members. Anecdotal information from R-CALF USA members indicates that the marketplace has assigned economic premiums ranging from $30 to $60 per head for producers who are voluntarily providing traceable livestock for use in the beef export market.

Dr. Kris Ringwall’s 2007 testimony to the U.S. ITC succinctly explained that traceability has a market value:

 

Steve Holcombe, founder and chief executive officer of Pardalis, Inc. (which is a third-party data storage company that values and treats data the same as money) noted: “The challenge is to effectuate regulations that are inclusive of small producers, and that recognize that there now are two distinct products being produced along agricultural supply chains today: (1) the traditional livestock product (the calf) and (2) an informational product that describes the ‘pedigree’ of the traditional product.”

 

This is important to understand. Today’s producer markets a calf but also markets the information about that calf, a process that is still struggling in the pens and alleyways of the cattle business. The free marketplace determines calf value, but the value of the information associated with the calf has not been determined. But one point is becoming very clear; the actual information contains the keys to unlock the various doors needed to enter the more complex market place, not only domestically but also internationally (EXHIBIT 12, p. 1).

 

The proposed rule is void of any economic analysis regarding the potential loss of all or part of the economic premiums that export-oriented cattle producers are presently receiving by choosing to add information to their cattle that describes the pedigree of their cattle. The proposed rule would interfere with the free market system by forcing all cattle producers to pay the cost of providing traceability and then gifting any and all of the market value associated with traceable cattle directly to the nation’s meatpackers, which, of course, are in the business of selling beef, not cattle. APHIS’ failure to analyze the loss of economic premiums, specifically the portion of the economic premium assigned to basic traceability, is fatal as the effect of its proposed rule would be to transfer wealth from U.S! . cattle producers to the purveyors of the commodity beef – the U.S. meatpacking industry.

 

Based on APHIS’ estimate that 3.1 million calves were officially identified in 2010 (see supporting document, at 8), and assuming that those cattle are receiving market-driven premiums in the range of $30 to $60 per head, the proposed rule would financially damage those producers in a range of between $93 million and $186 million. This would be in addition to the proposed rule’s costs addressed in Section C. 2. supra. This loss would be realized by U.S. cattle producers because, once the rule is implemented, those producers who already officially identify their cattle will no longer be able to differentiate their cattle based on all or part of the valuable “pedigree” information they are now “selling” in the marketplace.

 

R-CALF USA is concerned that APHIS intends to persuade export countries to abandon, in whole or in part, their current requirements for cattle traceability as specified in the USDA Export Verification (EV) program as soon as APHIS can demonstrate that all or most cattle in the U.S. are traceable under APHIS’ mandatory identification scheme. When this inevitability occurs, U.S. cattle producers will be deprived of the income discussed above that they can now earn by voluntarily participating in currently available EV programs.

 

R-CALF USA’s concern is not mere conjecture. In the June 3, 2005, Declaration of John R. Clifford, D.V.M., then deputy Administrator, APHIS, Veterinary Services, which included exhibits, Dr. Clifford stated that he did not believe the voluntary Export Verification Program was needed:

 

The program, called the Beef Export Verification program, will set forth policies, procedures and requirements for an independent process verification of participants.

 

It is a voluntary, user-fee service available to suppliers of beef and beef products derived from cattle slaughtered in the United States.

 

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service will conduct process verification audits of suppliers, program documentation and procedures with regard to the Beef Export Verification program requirements.

 

Details of this program are being shared with the industry and will be posted on the USDA website starting today. It will be operational on or before September 1st.

 

As I said before, we do not believe such a program is necessary (EXHIBIT 1, pp. 2,3; EXHIBIT 19). (Emphasis added.)

 

Based on Dr. Clifford’s representation that APHIS was opposed to the very inception of the Beef Export Verification program, it is R-CALF USA’s belief that it is more likely than not that Dr. Clifford and APHIS will work aggressively to dismantle this voluntary, market-driven program as soon as the proposed rule is implemented.

 

If R-CALF USA’s concern materializes, APHIS’ proposed rule would effectively steal the market value associated with “pedigree” information that enables livestock traceability (estimated at between $93 million and $186 million in 2010 alone) away from U.S. cattle producers and gift it to the U.S. meatpacking industry, even though it is the cattle producers who will continually bear the cost of providing such valuable market information.

 

As explained above, APHIS’ proposed rule directly interferes with the United States’ free market system and if the losses estimated for 2010 were calculated on the basis of the cattle industry’s lost future income potential, those losses would compound astronomically and result in an acceleration of the already contracting U.S. cattle industry. For this reason, the proposed rule must be immediately withdrawn.

 

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

 

# # #

 

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 17, 2011                                                                                          Phone: 406-252-2516; r-calfusa@r-calfusa.com

 

8 Days of Opposition to USDA’s Proposed Mandatory Animal Identification Rule:  Part IV 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 IV:  APHIS’ Cost Estimate for the Proposed Rule Robs Peter and Pays Paul

 

C. APHIS Grossly Understates the Economic Cost of the Proposed Rule that Will be Borne by U.S. Cattle Producers 

 

  1. 2.      APHIS likely relied on misinformation when it calculated its grossly understated cost estimate for the proposed rule.

 

APHIS commissioned a study in 2009 titled “Benefit-Cost Analysis of the National Animal Identification System” (EXHIBIT 13) (APHIS ID Study), which study APHIS heavily relied on to arrive at its grossly understated cost estimate for the proposed rule. The assumptions used in APHIS’ ID Study are erroneous and do not reflect actual costs by U.S. cattle producers for tagging cattle. For e! xample, the APHIS ID Study estimated the cost of working (i.e., tagging) cattle based on a 2005 NDSU Article by Dr. Ringwall and assumed it took only 66 seconds to work an animal in a squeeze chute that took 15 minutes to set up; and the chute cost per head was $1.00 (EXHIBIT 13, p. 16).  However, the article referenced by the APHIS ID Study that was used to calculate an artificially low cost to the cattle industry for tagging cattle explained that the cost estimates were based on the use of a state-of-the-art mobile cattle working system that likely is not availab! le to many, if not most, U.S. cattle producers:

The team utilized the For-Most portable hydraulic double alley with a 750 chute. The system, as described by For-Most, has a 14-foot adjustable double alley, adjustable overhead grill and a 4- foot funnel section to a 9-foot single alley behind the model 750 squeeze chute and scale.

Cattle were fed into the For-Most system through a portable Wilson Wheel Corral, a series of hinged panels that unfold from the travel position to a complete corral for 140 head of calves (600 pound) and can be set up by one person in seven minutes (as described by Wilson). The team found setup time was quick and easy, utilizing available hydraulics and skill and experience with fifth-wheel driving (EXHIBIT 14).

In addition, the setup and teardown time for the state-of-the-art equipment that enabled Dr. Ringwall’s team to work each animal in only 66 seconds actually took 56 minutes and 34 minutes, respectively (EXHIBIT 14), which is much longer than the 15-minute setup time used in the APHIS ID Study, and that APHIS used in its supporting document.

 

Further, while the APHIS ID Study estimated that the cost to beef cow operators for a bookend-type identification system, as manifested in the proposed rule, was only $3.919 per head (EXHIBIT 13, p. vii), and APHIS’ upper-end cost estimate was only $0.76 per head more, the articles by Dr. Ringwall actually relied on by the APHIS ID Study estimated the actual cost of working the cattle, excluding the cost of ear tags, using the state-of-the-art cattle working system wa! s a total of $7.27 per head, provided that 10,000 head of cattle were worked through the cattle working system on an annual basis (EXHIBIT 15).

 

This is but one glaring example of how the authors of the APHIS ID Study deceived the public and APHIS by misusing legitimate data for the purpose of generating an inaccurate and fictitious low estimate for the cost that typical U.S. cattle producers would incur under a bookend-type animal ID system, as is contemplated in the proposed rule. This example alone reveals that the APHIS ID Study manipulated data to underestimate the basic cost of working cattle by $3.35 per head, even when worked in a state-of-the-art cattle handling facility that is beyond the reach of many, if not most, U.S. cattle producers.

 

Another glaring example of data manipulation in the APHIS ID Study is its treatment of shrink.  For the cow/calf industry, the APHIS ID Study included only 25 percent of the expected shrink as a cost to the cow/calf producer (EXHIBIT 13, p. 18). The APHIS Study rationalized this deceptive ploy on the basis that the buyer of the shrunken cattle would realize a compensatory gain when ! the cattle were sold and subsequently afforded an opportunity to eat and drink (EXHIBIT 13, p.18). The practical effect of this misuse of data, of course, is that the true cost of shrink borne by U.S. cow/calf producers for tagging their cattle was understated by 75 percent. Based on the fact that APHIS used the APHIS ID Study’s shrink estimate, it too reduced the true cost of shrink that cow calf producers will realize when tagging cull cows and calves by 75 percent.

 

APHIS is dead wrong to assume that “the cattle industry” would realize only a 25 percent net loss because the buyer would benefit from a compensatory gain. This is because the cattle industry is a distinct and separate industry from the meatpacking industry and when a cattle industry participant sells cull cows to a meatpacking industry participant and APHIS assigns only 25 percent of the cattle industry participant’s cost to the cattle industry, then APHIS has affectively robbed 75 percent of the cost actually realized by the cattle industry and gifted the monetary value of that cost directly to the meatpacking industry. By slight-of-hand, APHIS silently attempted to rob Peter to pay Paul in its effort to artificially lower the true cost of its ridiculously expensive mandatory animal identification scheme.

 

It must be noted that despite APHIS’ intimation that that the U.S. cattle herd, as it measured by dividing the total cattle and calf inventory by the total number of U.S. cattle operations, “is now nearly 100 head” (see supporting document, at 12), the average size of the U.S. beef cow herd remains at less than 42 mother cows per herd (as measured by dividing the total number of beef cows by the total number of beef cow operations). It is those cow/calf producers, which collectively have an average herd size of less than 42 head, who will be directly burdened and financially disadvantaged by the proposed rule. And, many, if not most, of those cow/calf producers do not have access to the state-of-the-art cattle working system used in Dr. Ringwall’s study. Therefore, the actual costs borne by ! U.S. cow/calf producers would be expected to be higher than Dr. Ringwall projected.

For the foregoing reasons, APHIS’ reliance on the 2009 APHIS ID Study to estimate the cost of the proposed rule on U.S. cattle producers is unjustified, erroneous, and deceitful. As a result of APHIS’ direct reliance on the APHIS ID Study, APHIS’ cost estimates likewise are unjustified, erroneous and deceitful. Based on the realistic cost estimates generated by Dr. Ringwall’s study, the proposed rule’s start-up costs and annual costs, which would range from a low of $554 million to a high of $1.9 billion, are unfeasible. APHIS’ proposed rule is a financially unworkable albatross that will economically harm U.S. cow/calf producers who will not be afforded any opportunit! y to recoup their costs in the marketplace.

 

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

 

# # #

 

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 16, 2011                                                                                          Phone: 406-252-2516; r-calfusa@r-calfusa.com

 

8 Days of Opposition to USDA’s Proposed Mandatory Animal Identification Rule:  Part III 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 III:  The Proposed Rule Would Cost the U.S. Cattle Industry Hundreds of Millions of Dollars

 

C. APHIS Grossly Understates the Economic Cost of the Proposed Rule that Will be Borne by U.S. Cattle Producers 

 

  1. 1.      A three-year study shows the proposed rule will cost U.S. cattle producers hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billons of dollars

 

USDA data show the 2010 U.S. calf crop was 35.685 million head and the U.S. commercially slaughtered 34.249 million cattle in 2010. (EXHIBIT 11, p. 19) Based on the assumption that all of those cattle had to be moved at least once in 2010 – from herd of origin to grass or backgrounder, or from herd of origin to feedlot and/or slau! ghter plant, respectively – there was a potential for all those cattle to be moved in interstate commerce and to be subject to the proposed rule’s requirements (it is noted the requirement for indentifying feeder cattle would be only temporarily delayed under the proposed rule). Thus, there was the potential in 2010 for nearly 70 million head of cattle to be required to be individually identified if the proposed rule were fully implemented.

 

A study presented to the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) in 2007 by Kris Ringwall, Ph.D., Director, Dickinson Research Center Extension and Livestock Specialist, North Dakota State University (NDSU), that involved the tagging of 14,432 calves during the three-year period 2004-2006, concluded that the cost working each calf, tag placement and documentation was $7.00 per calf. (EXHIBIT 12, p. 2) In addition, Dr. Ringwall’s three-year project determined tha! t the tagging of calves was costly to producers because of shrink, which he defined as “weight loss while handling calves.” (EXHIBIT 12, p. 2) Dr. Rinwall stated in his testimony:

 

When we’ve measured shrink in the cattle we have worked during the project, we estimate up to $10 to $20 in lost income potential per calf, regardless of the management activity applied. (EXHIBIT 12, p. 2)

 

Based on Dr. Ringwall’s findings, the cost of tagging and documenting calves, excluding the cost of the tag itself, and the cost of the income lost due to shrink, ranged from $17.00 per head to $27.00 per head in 2006 or 2007 dollars. Based on information and belief, that cost in 2010 dollars likely is as high as $30.00 per head, if not higher. However, applying Dr. Ringwall’s 2007 findings to all cattle – cows, bulls, and calves – the likely cost of the proposed rule to U.S. cattle producers ranges from $1,190,000,000 ($1.2 billion) to $1,890,000,000 ($1.9 billion) (70 million head of cattle multiplied by $17.00 per head and $27.00 per head, respectively).  Even if only the cattle moved to slaughter in 2010 were considered, the cost to U.S. cattle producers would be $924,723,000, or about $920 million (34.249 million head of commercial slaughter cattle multiplied by $27.00 per head).

 

Applying Dr. Ringwall’s findings to APHIS’ assertion that “[a]pproximately 20 percent of cattle are not currently eartagged as part of routine management practices” (see 76 Fed. Reg., 50097, col. 1) and based on the assumption that APHIS used the Jan. 1, 2011, U.S. cattle and calves inventory number of  92,582,400 head, it would cost U.S. cattle producers a high of nearly $500 million to tag the 20 percent of cattle not already tagged (20 percent of 92,582,400 cattle equals 18,516,480 cattle multiplied by $27 per head).

 

Using APHIS’ data relied on in its supporting document, only 3.1 million of the 35.685 million head annual calf crop is tagged with official identification.  Therefore, the cost of tagging the remaining 2010 calf crop would range from $554 million to $880 million.

 

Thus, based on an actual study of tagging actual cattle – not on a study of available literature upon which APHIS relies – the cost to U.S. cattle producers to comply with the proposed rule will likely be hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars. APHIS’ upper cost estimate for the proposed rule of only $34.3 million (see 76 Fed. Reg., 50097, cols. 2, 3) is based on a complete lack of understanding of the U.S. cattle industry, and it grossly understates the cost that U.S. cattle producers actually will bear if USDA does not immediately withdraw the proposed r! ule.

 

 

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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